Melanie Bonajo

Melanie Bonajo (born 13 November 1978, Heerlen)[1] is a Dutch artist working with film, performance, installations, music, event organizing, and photography. Her works address themes of eroding intimacy and isolation in an increasingly sterile, technological world.[2] Her experimental documentaries often explore communities living or working on the margins of society, either through illegal means or cultural exclusion. Her work has been exhibited and screened internationally, from the Tate Modern, MoMA PS1, to De Appel Arts Centre and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to the Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, the Kunsthalle Basel, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the Berlinale, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and Treefort Film Fest.[3]

Notable workEdit

Bonajo's film series Night Soil is a trio of experimental documentaries about modern approaches to nature and the cultural implications of acting against capitalism. The first in the series, Night Soil - Fake Paradise, is about psychedelic plant medication and human-plant conversations.[4] The sequel, Night Soil - Economy of Love presents an alternative ethical model for sex-work healing and activism. The third film, "Night Soil - Nocturnal Gardening" questions the role of radical agriculture in a world of dwindling natural resources and disconnection to nature. Her other recent film, which premiered at Hacking Habitat, Progress vs. Regress is the first in a trilogy that questions how technology has evolved through the eyes of elderly people in the Netherlands.[5] This film was also selected for IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) 2016[6]

Music and PerformanceEdit

Bonajo has performed internationally at venues such as Paradiso in Amsterdam, Baby's Alright in NYC and Collège des Bernardins in Paris alongside artists such as Kembra Pfahler and Bianca Cassidy of CocoRosie.[7] Her band, ZaZaZoZo,[8] is a music project with Joseph Marzolla known for its tribal pop sound and animalistic influence.[9] All their music is produced by Bonajo's brother Tommie Bonajo at his Tomster studios. They released their debut album INUA in spring 2013 by Tsunami Addiction. Their latest single and video, Woke up as a Wolf, was released in 2014.


Bonajo's Furniture Bondage photography series pairs domestic tools with the naked female body.[10] In 2012 she initiated Genital International, a feminist performance collective event about participation and equality. Bonajo's photography series and music video work Pee on Presidents is often tied to the recent anti-censorship and sex-positive branches of the feminist movement for its endorsement of female body agency in public environments, resulting in a provocation of censorship laws in the media.[11]


Bonajo released her first major publication since Spheres[12] in December 2015 Matrix Botanica Nonhuman Persons designed by Experimental Jetset,[13] which explores the ways we experience nature through representations on the internet, via YouTube and blogs posting adorable, funny or adorably sad amateur videos and photographs of nonhuman animals. This publication delves into the ways nature education has changed over the years and integrates the voices of animal behavior scientists rather than a National Geographic perspective.[14]

As of March 2016, Bonajo, along with curators Maaike Gouwenberg and Emma Panza, was shortlisted to represent The Netherlands at the 57th Venice Biennale.

“The method of Bonajo is representative of practices of a younger generation that is based on collectivity and exchange.”[15]

Her third Night Soil film to complete the trilogy premiered at the Tate Modern's Artists' Cinema[16] in London September 7, 2016.[17] It will then be showcased at Foam museum in Amsterdam starting September 15, 2016 as part of the Next Level exhibition.[18]

In April 2017, Melanie Bonajo has been selected and shortlisted for the Prix de Rome Visual Arts 2017.[19]

Selected worksEdit



  • 2018 Melanie Bonajo - Single Mother Songs from the End of Nature
  • 2016 Matrix Botanica - How to Escape from an Elderly Home Method 2016
  • 2014 ZaZaZoZo - Woke up as a Wolf
  • 2013 ZaZaZoZo - Inua (Tsunami Addiction)


  • 2014 Pee on Presidents
  • 2012 How to get Closer to Nature Exercises
  • 2009 Furniture Bondage [2]
  • 2008 Thank You For Hurting Me I Really Needed That (Crying Series)


Events and CuratorialEdit

Solo ShowsEdit

Group ShowsEdit


  • 2019 Prix Pictet (nominee)
  • 2018 Amsterdamprijs voor de Kunst (nominee)
  • 2018 Nam June Paik Award (nominee)
  • 2017 Prix de Rome (nominee)
  • 2017 Campaign Artist for Amsterdam Unseen
  • 2016 Shortlisted for the Dutch Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale
  • 2015 IFFR Tiger Award for short films (nominee)
  • 2014 IFFR Tiger Award for short films (nominee)
  • 2013 MK Award
  • 2011 C.o.C.a (nominee)
  • 2009 Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Peter Paul Peterich Fonds
  • 2009 Festival Internationale de la Mode et Photographie
  • 2007 PUP Award
  • 2006 Berlinale Talent Campus


  1. ^ Melanie Bonajo at the RKD
  2. ^ Frank, Priscilla. "Meet The High Priestess Of The Anti-Selfie, Dutch Artist Melanie Bonajo", "Huffington Post", 2 November 2015. Retrieved on 7 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Isa Genzken Door De Ogen Van Melanie Bonajo - Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam." 1 January 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  4. ^ Yoshimura, Courtney. "Melanie Bonajo Speaks about Her New Video at the De Appel Arts Centre" "ArtForum", 8 October 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  5. ^ Hacking Habitat (2016). "Melanie Bonajo". Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-11-07. Retrieved 2016-11-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Bonajo, Melanie. "MELANIE MEETS BIANCA CASADY" Archived 2017-11-07 at the Wayback Machine 28 July 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  8. ^ "ZaZaZoZo". Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  9. ^ Bonajo, Melanie. "Kim Hiorthøy by Melanie Bonajo", "BOMB Magazine", 29 October 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  10. ^ "AVANTGARDE PORTFOLIO SHOWCASE | MELANIE BONAJO | GALLERY" Archived 2016-05-14 at the Wayback Machine, "Lightra", Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  11. ^ Frank, Priscilla. "15 Feminist Artists Respond To The Censorship Of Women’s Bodies Online", "The Huffington Post", 13 April 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  12. ^ "Spheres #1 – Melanie Bonajo / In what spheres do we live in?". motto distribution. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  13. ^ "This was 2015". experimental jetset. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  14. ^ "Matrix Botanica—Non-Human Persons". Capricious. Capricious Publishing. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  15. ^ "Vijf plannen op shortlist Nederlands paviljoen Biënnale Venetië" "Mondriaan Fonds", Amsterdam. 2 March 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  16. ^ Tate. "MELANIE BONAJO: NIGHT SOIL TRILOGY". Tate. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  17. ^ Tate Modern. "2016 Cinema Programme", "e-flux", New York. 1 January 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  18. ^ Foam. [1] .
  19. ^ "Shortlist Prix de Rome Beeldende Kunst 2017 bekend". Prix de Rome. 2017-04-20. Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  20. ^ "Preview On Earth". Issuu. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  21. ^ Julia Kahl. "Spheres #1 – Melanie Bonajo / In what spheres do we live?". Slanted. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Melanie Bonajo: Night Soil in Foam Amsterdam". Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam. Retrieved 2017-05-16.

External linksEdit