melanie bonajo

melanie bonajo

melanie bonajo, When the body says Yes, 2022, installation in collaboration with Théo Demans, 41:23 min, Dutch entry for the Venice Biennale as commissioned by the Mondriaan Fund, 2022, photo by Peter Tijhuis


melanie bonajo


melanie bonajo (they/them/theirs) is an artist, filmmaker, sexological bodyworker, somatic sex coach and educator, cuddle workshop facilitator and activist. Through their videos, performances, photographs, and installations, they examine current conundrums of co-existence in a crippling capitalist system, and address themes of eroding intimacy and isolation in an increasingly sterile, technological world. They research how technological advances and commodity-based pleasures increase feelings of alienation, removing an individual’s sense of belonging. Their works present anticapitalist methods to reconnect and to explore sexualities, intimacies and feelings. bonajo’s experimental documentaries often feature communities living or working on the margins of society, either through illegal means or cultural exclusion, and the paradoxes inherent to ideas of comfort with a strong sense for community, equality and body-politics.


bonajo studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and completed residencies at the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunst in Amsterdam (2009-10) and at ISCP in New York (2014).


In 2014 melanie bonajo started working on their monumental Night Soil Trilogy, consisting of Night Soil – Fake Paradise (2014), Night Soil – Economy of Love (2015) and Night Soil – Nocturnal Gardening (2016). Night Soil is a trilogy of documentaries presenting progressive (sometimes illegal) approaches through the portraits of ayahuasca consumers, sex worker activists or women farmers. In 2016, Progress vs Regress was released, followed by Progress vs Sunsets in 2017. This new Trilogy examines extinction or endangerment of vulnerable groups through techno-capital development, but also extinction in an abstract sense, extinction of feelings and thoughts. In TouchMETell (2019) bonajo invites children (and adults) to think and talk about intimacy, their limits and body awareness. In 2022, When the body says Yes was released and presented as the Dutch Entry at the Venice Biennial. In 2023 melanie bonajo finished the work Schule der Liebenden commissioned by HORA Theatre Zurich, which also deals with body awareness and fragility.


melanie bonajo represented The Netherlands at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022 with When the body says Yes. bonajo has been working with a curatorial team consisting of Orlando Maaike Gouwenberg, Geir Haraldseth and Soraya Pol. The scenography for their immersive installation When the body says Yes is created in collaboration with Théo Demans.

Solo exhibitions: FOAM, Amsterdam, NL (2016); Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (2017); Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, NL (2018).


Touring solo exhibitions ‘When the body says Yes’: FOMU, Antwerp, BE (2023); KUMU Tallinn, EE (2023/24); IMMA Dublin (2024), IE.


Touring solo exhibitions: ‘Progress vs the (m)other‘, Kunstpalais Erlangen, DE (2025); Pori Museum, Pori, FI (2025).

Further selected international shows and projects include: Kunsthalle Mainz, DE (2024); Barbican Centre London, UK (2023); Museum Seoul, KR (2023); Gwangju Biennale, KR (2023); National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, GR (2023); Esch European Capital Luxembourg, LU (2022); House of Electronic Arts Basel, CH, (2022); ARKEN Museum for Moderne Kunst, DK (2021); Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, IT (2021); Museum Schloss Moyland, DE (2021); Shanghai Biennale, CN (2020/21); Kunsthaus Hamburg, DE (2020); Kunsthaus Dresden, DE (2020); Museum für Neue Kunst Freiburg, DE (2020); Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, NL (2020); Pori Museum, FI (2019/20); Les Rencontres d’Arles, FR (2019); performance at Palais de Tokyo, FR (2019); Guangzhou Triennial, CN (2018/19); Kunsthalle Lingen, DE (2018); Museum Marta Herford, DE (2018); Haus der Kunst, DE (2018); Manifesta 12, Palermo, IT (2018); Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art, LV (2018); Kunstsaele Berlin, DE (2018); performance at Tate Modern, London, UK (2017); Kunsthalle Basel, CH (2016).


melanie bonajo was nominated for the Nam June Paik Award (2018) and the Prix de Rome (2017) and won the IFFR Tiger Award (2016).



The video installation TouchMETell, 2019 by melanie bonajo allows children (and adults) to think and talk about intimacy, their limits and body awareness. melanie bonajo and a group of children aged 6-8 investigate how they experience their own body and physical contact with others.

In addition to the Museum acquisition of TouchMETell, melanie bonajo realised a version with children from Korea in collaboration with SeMA: TouchMETell_02, which will be donated to the Museum in April, 2024.


We are extremely happy and proud that melanie bonajo has represented The Netherlands at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. bonajo has been working with a curatorial team consisting of Orlando Maaike Gouwenberg, Geir Haraldseth and Soraya Pol. The scenography is made in collaboration with Théo Demans.


When the body says Yes has and will be traveling to (international) museum venues. The journey started at FOMU, Antwerp and KUMU Kunstimuuseum, Tallinn. The next stop will be: Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; IMMA – The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin.

Snakken naar Boijmans

Presenting in the Bodon Space When the body says Yes

Curated by Annemartine van Kesteren

1 June – 7 July, 2024

Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands


Presenting Progress vs. Sunsets

Curated by Joanna Zielinska

7 June – 22 September, 2024

M HKA, Antwerp, Belgium

melanie bonajo. The (m)other

Presenting progress vs. (m)other

Curated by Amely Deiss, commisioned by Kunstpalais Erlangen

31 March – 31 June, 2025

Kunstpalais, Museum für zeitgenössische Kunst Erlangen, Germany

melanie bonajo: progress vs. (m)other

Curated by Anni Venäläinen

26 September, 2025 – 1 March, 2026

Pori Art Museum, Pori, Finland