MILESTONE 25 YEARS OF THE WORLD BODYPAINTING FESTIVAL
Summer 2022 was the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the World Bodypainting Festival and it was a celebration like no other. Back in person after a two year absence due to the pandemic, WBF took Klagenfurt and Lake Woerthersee by storm once again. Since its inception, the event had drawn attendees and competitors from around the world to Austria and been continuously led by the events founder and producer Alex Barendregt. We spoke to Alex about the return of the event and the announcement that this would also be the last WBF of this version.
Río Verde During the pandemic you went virtual with the festival and this was your first year back live and in-person in Klagenfurt. What was that like for you?
It was a big liberation to me, a release to finally be able to welcome my artist community in person and to be able to show emotions, talk and laugh together and hug each other. Just a beautiful feeling we all wanted to have back.
Kampot This year marks the events 25th year in production. What was your original inspiration for the event?
Originally, I wanted to invite artists to paint in a public park where visitors and photographers should enjoy the expression of the artists on their canvas. There was no competition in the first year, just a small gathering with big impact.
The event is quite an undertaking with workshops, live music, food and retail vendors and of course lots of body painting! How many people does it take to produce such a big program and how far out do you start planning?
I start planning after finishing up the previous festival. We need about a month to finish, then in September we start for the year after. Our core crew is small, it’s just four people at WB Production, when it comes to the event the crew grows.
How has the event changed over the years?
The event has added a lot over the years. The concept from year two though stayed pretty solid the same, just we added over the 25 years various categories in bodypainting, then special effects then also beauty and creative makeup. We had photography and video awards implemented, show and model awards. We added workshops, entertainment, shows, parties and music so in the most recent years the WBF developed into a very intense full festival week.
Over 25 years how many competitors did the event have?
Oh wow, well 2019 was the year with the highest attendees in the competitions, with 370 teams in 14 categories. Over the years I guess something around 4,500 – 5,000.
How many countries have been represented overall?
In all these years we had about 70 countries represented, in 2019 there were 48 nations. Then in the Covid Online edition 55 nations. This year we had 35 nations.
What has been the most challenging thing about producing an event of this size for so many years?
Persistence is probably the biggest challenge. And the motivation of the crew that comes together once a year only, after Covid a very difficult situation but we managed.
You announced this year that you have made the decision to end this version of the event. What was the catalyst for that decision after 25 years?
It was very difficult to kickstart a live event back from the pandemic. The biggest issue is always to get the budgets for such an event and that was a struggle. Many countries still have a Covid issue that was also the reason many Asian groups didn’t come. The Russian war against the Ukraine came next and our participants from these areas dropped out. Flights are complicated and expensive so that some participants couldn’t come, even exhibitors. All in all a very fragile construction. I still wanted to go ahead as the 25th anniversary should be something very special. Maybe not as many participants that it used to have, but still it was a beautiful — but expensive — feeling. While the current format of the WBF will not continue, we have ideas for the future. Everything at this stage is open, the format, location, time.
What has been the thing that you have loved most about producing World Bodypainting Festival?
Growing a community that comes together only once a year and seeing how they enjoy every part of the festival.
Let’s not forget the competition from 2022! Who were the winners this year?
– Brush/Sponge – Sanatan Dinda (India)
– Airbrush – Alla Krasnova (Italy)
– SFX Bodypainting – Alejandra Huert Gayol (Mexico)
– Team Show – Enrico Lein and Claudia Kraemer (Germany)
– Camouflage Bodypainting – Olena Semenets (Ukraine)
– Facepainting – Nadja Hluchovsky (Austria)
– Special Effects Makeup – Alejandra Huert Gayol (Mexico)
– Creative Makeup – Grace Castillejos Iglesias (Spain)
– Commercial Rich Makeup – Olena Semenets (Ukraine)
– Makeup Battle – Olga Levitskaya (Ukraine)
– Brush/Sponge – Bibi Jeong (South Korea)
– Bodypainting Open – Laura Colangelo (Italy)
Words Michael DeVellis
Photos courtesy of World Bodypainting Festival