Frankfurter Kunstverein presents the first great institutional solo exhibition of Dutch artist Melanie Bonajo (b. 1978) in Germany. The artist is shortlisted for the Dutch Prix de Rome 2017, the most generous prize for Visual Arts in the Netherlands.
A critical approach to the capitalist value system and the modern belief in progress, the conviction that the dualism between humans and nature has to be broken apart and radically rethought—these are some of the major points of departure for Melanie Bonajo’s artistic production. The artist questions the ways in which technological progress and lifestyle aspirations based on commodities and consumption produce feelings of alienation and a diminished sense of belonging.
Melanie Bonajo’s (b. 1978) artistic practice is shaped by her critical stance towards the state of our world. Her works are created in the light of an explicitly critical attitude towards capitalism and an ambivalent view of the modern euphoria about progress. She is a traveller in search of individuals and communities, which strive for different visions of being human in the world and pursue more integrated, holistic conceptions of social togetherness and cohabitation with their fellow creatures. Her attention is particularly focussed on female protagonists, who come to speak about their individual worldviews through her videos. They have chosen partly illegal life practices outside of the common social models, searching instead for a transformed relationship to nature and community in new rituals, for alternative approaches to corporeality and socially defined gender roles. These women stand for a radically different kind of ethical thought and an oppositional attitude towards the lifestyles commonly produced by a globalized, digitalized, and networked world.
The exhibition at Frankfurter Kunstverein presents several recent work groups. The experimental, semi-fictional documentary trilogy “Night Soil” consists of the three autonomous films “Fake Paradise” (2014), “Economy of Love” (2015) and “Nocturnal Gardening” (2016). In “Progress vs Regress” (2016) Melanie Bonajo examines the impact of modern inventions on social relations. She takes as a starting point the perspective of the elderly, who have witnessed some of the most extreme industrial, technological and digital revolutions. In collaboration with the artist a new work is produced for the show at Frankfurter Kunstverein, entitled “Progress vs Sunsets” (work in progress, 2017), the first spatial adaptation of her complex piece “Matrix Botanica – Non Human Persons”.
Bonajo’s works are eclectic and anarchic in their visual imagery, political and activist in their approach, yet poetic and humorous in their veracity. Her experimental, semi-fictional documentaries are often based on face-to-face encounters. The artist creates possibilities for further development, and she thus presents us with humans who playfully stage themselves before her camera, revealing their stories and thoughts. Bonajo is an empathetic investigator; she lives and experiences together with the people she portrays.
Corporeality plays a central role in the artist’s work, both with respect to her films’ protagonists as well as their viewers. She aims to open up the role of a distanced observer. Together with Théo Demans and Clemence Seilles, Bonajo has created a series of immersive rooms especially for the Frankfurter Kunstverein: playful stage-worlds and artificial landscapes which invite one to recline, to slow down. At the same time, these also operate as an expansion of Bonajo’s filmic imagery, physically enveloping and transporting the viewer into a frenzy of colour, light, and material.
The exhibition is curated by Franziska Nori, director of Frankfurter Kunstverein.