melanie bonajo

melanie bonajo

melanie bonajo, Dutch entry for the Venice Biennale as commissioned by the Mondriaan Fund, 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 anti-capitalist 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).


Solo exhibitions have been: FOMU Antwerp, BE (2023); Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, NL (2018); Frankfurter Kunst verein, Frankfurt, DE (2017);  FOAM, Amsterdam, NL (2016). Expected solo shows with When the body says Yes will be: KUMU Tallinn, EE (2023) ; Fotografiska Berlin, DE (2023); IMMA Dublin, IE (2024); Kunstpalais Erlangen, DE (2024).


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. 

Further selected international shows and projects include: 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); Palais de Tokyo, FR (performance 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, LR (2018); Kunstsaele Berlin, DE (2018); Tate Modern, London, UK (performance 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).  


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.





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 will be traveling to institutions outside the Netherlands, the first one being FOMU Antwerp.


soft and weak like water

14th Gwangju Biennale

Curated by Sook-Kyung Lee

7 April – 9 July 2023

Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea

melanie bonajo

Solo exhibition

Curated by Maria Arusoo

3 November 2023 – 3 March 2024

KUMU Kunstimuuseum, Tallinn, Estonia