by Madelyn Greco

Daegu International Bodypainting Festival

The 2017 Daegu International Bodypainting Festival is the longest-running and largest festival to specifically anchor the art form of Bodypainting in Asia. Since becoming the Festival Champions in 2013, Scott and I have each enjoyed the honor of being invited to judge this competition, several times in rotation. In 2017, I was the grateful recipient of the invitation and was pleased to rejoin the jury with a number of notable international peers including former World Champions, Matteo Arfanotti (Italy), Tera Bakker (Netherlands) and Gabriella Hajek-Renner (Austria) as well as the creator of the UK’s largest Bodypainting Competition, Jennie Roberts (England). It’s always delightful to be grouped with a selection of our global bodypaint friends, as the organizers are certain to have a number of fun and interesting cultural offerings for us to enjoy. We sightsee, take in museums and historical places like traditional villages or temple sites, shop the markets and sample an incredible variety of Korean cuisine! This year, at my insistence, we even gave Korean-style karaoke (very different format than most of us foreigners were used to) a whirl. It made for memorable fun!

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The DIBF is a splendid festival that enjoys a televised audience of 5.5 million people, as well as two festival main days that welcome thousands of onlookers. In an outdoor format similar to the World Bodypainting Festival, artists create their works under cover of tents, while attendees can wander the grounds and watch the creation process in real time. The main stage features an entire day of programming, with varied genres of musical and dance performances. On Day One, when the work time ceases, the artists go straight to the jury to be scored, then make their stage presentations before the audience. At the end of the evening, notifications are given to the artists who qualified (by ranking) to return the next day and recreate their piece for the television cameras. Day Two repeats the process, with the exception of Jury presentation. The winners’ placements are known to the jury and organizers from their scores on Day One, but will only be announced at the awards ceremony live on camera, at end of Day Two. On the second day, televised model presentations are interspersed with live performances curated for Korean TV viewers, such as big-time K-Pop, or Korean National Opera stars.

This frees up the Jury to be “Special Artists” to the festival on Day Two and we spend the day creating exhibition works on models for the cameras and a live audience. We share the festival tents as well and create alongside one another, just as the competing artists do. This year, our models were lithe, lovely dancers from a Latin troupe who performed a choreographed piece in the evening show.

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One thing that differentiates the Daegu Festival is it’s Fantasy Makeup Category and first-time jury members are continually blown away by the magnitude of the spectacle utilized in this competition! It’s beyond dazzling with huge costumes covered in crystals, mirrors, rhinestones, feathers, flowers, fabric, LED lights and other, glittering, iridescent, man-made finery. These costumes might span 6-8 feet in any direction and can easily shoot up to 10-12 feet tall, including the headdress. Often, 2-3 extra assistants are needed just to help these models duck low enough to fit into the jury room, to be scored. Its hard to imagine, but the entirety of these massive, mind-boggling costumes counts for just 25% of the overall score. The lion’s share of the points are awarded on the makeup itself, covering the face, the décolletage and in some cases, the arms.

Just like the bodypaint competitors, the highest ranking Fantasy Makeup artists return to recreate their works for the television show on the second day. The final placements are known, but kept secret until the awards ceremony, that night.

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After the new champions have been crowned and the highest payout given by any competition in the world is awarded (1st place equivalent to 9,000 USD!), we party! There’s always a spectacular fireworks show choreographed to music, to cap the festival. Many years, I have taken short selfie videos dancing madly to bright sparks spreading across the sky. A catered affair arranged backstage with broadcasting management is a common occurrence. Or we may toast to the winners out at a late supper, perhaps involving some parlor games that combine with consumption of a particular high-test, Korean-stye beverage called Soju.

Our final day in Daegu finds us boarding a touring coach with all of the foreign competitors for another day steeped in Korean cultural heritage. This year, we traveled to Hahoe Traditional Village in Andong Province, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We stopped off for a delicious meal of sizzling, tabletop-prepared Bulgogi, before engaging in a scenic afternoon walking tour of the bucolic village. It’s the cap to a long weekend of essentially being treated as rock stars, ourselves. No wonder everyone is sad to depart. Thank goodness my dear friend Jennie Roberts and I have flight tickets to Tokyo booked, so we can ease back into civilian life with more spectacular sights to explore in yet another culture. As our Italian friend, Matteo always hashtags on his fabulous travel outings – #toughlife. It’s a fitting jest to remind us of the gratitude we have for lives that are anything but!

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