Exploring Wilderness, Reflections on Body Painting

The landscape of the human body is a “wilderness” in its own right. For longer than anything else created by wild nature, the bodyscape has been a place of exploration and a source of continuous experiential revelation, as well as an object of adornment, abuse, and worship. Yet it remains a mystery…no amount of exploring the body has yet satisfied us that we finally know it. We always return to it, to ponder and pod, caress and consider. Maybe this is because each body is distinctly unique, and therefore just like wilderness…always a mystery, always with something new.

At WILD9, the 9th World Wilderness Congress (Mexico, 2009), we further explored the connection between humans and wild nature through a cultural experiment of applying the most ancient art — body adornment — to the plight of endangered species and spaces.

I eagerly embraced this idea conceived by Patricio Robles Gil, artist and conservationist and our partner in WILD9, and we set about to make it happen. During more than a year of great challenges to conceive, finance, and produce this body painting/nature conservation process the end result was often unsure and, like most creative masterpieces, never fully conceived until it actually occurred. It was a quietly classy, stunning event.

In keeping with the 35 year tradition of the World Wilderness Congress, “body painting” during the WILD9 process clearly demonstrated that our conservation message and mission is most effective when it uses inspiration, beauty, and uniqueness to communicate the human connection to wild nature. The 1600 conservation delegates from 50 nations understood by personal experience and internal exploration — not through being told directly– that the nature conservation movement should and must expand its own self image and style, and dare to communicate the conservation message in new and different ways…always and continuously, and with beauty and hope.

No one can convey the impact of this experiment better that Patricio, who recently presented it on his website, and produced a superb and short video that tells the story.

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