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Return to Wild by Cody Cirillo

In today’s society, the notion of becoming “unplugged” is seemingly impossible. Even deeply in nature, in regions undisturbed by human influence, we find technology becoming more and more pervasive. Phones have become almost biologically attached to us, with us at every moment. The possibility of an Instagram fuels our experiences. Creating, sharing, and interacting online consumes our time. But, how is technology influencing our experiences of the outdoors? How can we move away from this influence to regain a true, full immersion?

With modern technological domination, driven by innovation in networked technologies, we find ourselves losing a sense of the wilderness and what it means to be wild. Our intentions for outdoor use have changed and our knowledge of the wild world has diminished. Peter Kahn, in his book The Rediscovery of the Wild states that “as a species we have come of age in a natural world, far wilder than today, and much of the need of wilderness still exists within us today, body and mind” (Kahn, xi). There’s a biological and spiritual need for the wild. As generations have passed, our notion of “what is wild” has changed, diminishing our biological sense of the wild as a species as we adapt unknowingly to modern constructions. To regain the sense of wild, we must first understand what wild truly means and further develop our understanding of the world sans technological connectivity.

Return to Wild is an experiential journey, orchestrated in order to find the wild within all of us. Jack Turner said it best; “The idea that we have to go to Yellowstone to find or experience of the wild is absurd. We simply must learn to switch scale with ease, moving deftly from the vastly big to the infinitesimally small, integrated hierarchies”.

The final piece is a form of social practice art, in which users are engaged in an outdoor performance experience, curated and led by myself. Members are exposed to a myriad of dialogues, instructions, and exhibitions, where they are able to learn, discuss, and reflect on the experiences, further diving into the concept of wild. The field “script”, along with user journals serve as documentation of the experience as no photos are taken, in order to keep the experience itself more authentic.

The wilderness and the outdoors have been a large part of my identity and they have inspired me throughout my interactions with the world. I grew up with the mountains in my backyard; I would leave civilization as regularly as I could to explore my surroundings and learn about the world. I was influenced in creating an experiential format, rather than an internet-based project, by The Dark Web, in which we learned about John Zerzan, a primitivist who advocates for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. I found it paradoxical, however, that he utilized the web in order to promote his ideology. I thus realized that I wanted a more real and immersive experience, where senses meant everything, and where my intent wouldn’t be thwarted by the medium.

As the world faces more and more environmental issues due to anthropogenic causes, having an understanding of our deep connection to the wild can provide us with a mindset that can inevitably lead us to developing policies and measures for environmental protection. Technology is a beautiful human construct and provides a multitude of benefits to our livelihoods. It is my hope that in order to fully grasp the richness in our lives, we understand our lives through both technological and wild perspectives, cultivating a more open sense of what it means to be a modern human.

Documentation from Return to Wild