Born in Heerlen, Netherlands in 1978; lives and works in Amsterdam and New York
In her videos, performances, photographs and installations, Melanie Bonajo studies how technological advances and commodity-based pleasures increase feelings of alienation and focuses on issues such as community, equality and body politics. Captivated by concepts of the divine, Bonajo explores the spiritual emptiness of her generation, examines peoples’ shifting relationship with nature and tries to understand existential questions by reflecting on our daily situations, concepts of home, gender and attitudes towards value. Night Soil – Economy of Love is the second film in Bonajo’s trilogy Night Soil. Whereas the first part of the trilogy, Night Soil - Fake Paradise (2014), explores the cultural effect of hallucinogens and human connection to nature, Night Soil – Economy of Love (2015) portrays a Brooklyn-based movement of female sex workers who look at their work as a way for women to reclaim power in a male-dominated pleasure zone, their mission being to rearrange sexual conventions and ideas about intimacy. Vivid erotic imagery and a spoken score reveal expectations surrounding gender roles through playful, sensual, and feminist-inspired means, while also manifesting Bonajo's vision of contemporary spirituality. Fifty years have passed since the Summer of Love, when the first feminist movements appeared and made their mark in history by demanding gender equality and proclaiming sexual liberation. At a time when feminism is starting to be seen as a resolved issue in Western societies, it remains a crucial issue topic in many parts of the world – often much closer to us than we imagine. In her film, Bonajo speaks about the ‘wisdom of femininity’ and reminds us of the emancipatory issues brought to the forefront by the movements of 1967 and their proclamation of sexual liberation and a free, unrestrained understanding of love. In a world where a swipe to the right on a smartphone can grant access to supermarket sex, where social media tend to create an alternate form of loneliness, and where we are increasingly disconnected from the physical world, Bonajo questions the complex relationships that exist within and without the natural world, challenging the traditional notions that divide nature, people, and technology. She looks to environmental activism and, in particular, how that activism is leveraged illegally against global capitalism. The film Night Soil – Economy of Love was recently in the IFFR Tiger Awards Competition for Short Films 2016 at Rotterdam Film Festival. Bonajo's work has been exhibited and performed in international art institutions, such as Tate Modern, London; EYE Film Museum, Amsterdam; STUK, Louvain and de Bond, Bruges; Rogaland Kunstsenter, Stavanger; De Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam; Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Moscow Biennale; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Fondazione Prada, Milan; PPOW Gallery and PS1/MoMA, New York. Her films have been screened at Kunsthalle Basel (2016) and numerous festivals, such as International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and the Berlinale. In 2012, she initiated the collective Genital International, which tackles subjects around feminism, participation, equality, our Earth: ‘Politics beyond Polarity’ and ‘Revolution through Relaxation’.