Melanie Bonajo at Foam, Amsterdam
As part of the exhibition series Next Level, Foam presents the first major solo museum exhibition by Melanie Bonajo, who lives in Amsterdam and New York. It includes the first chance to see in its entirety the video trilogy Night Soil, which she has been working on since 2014. Bonajo occupies a unique position in contemporary art and has developed into a wayward artist who works in various disciplines including photography, video, installations, publications, performance and music. Never, since the start of her career, has Bonajo fitted into any of the artistic pigeon holes. Particularly striking are her anarchist streak and her energetic ability to escape from social conventions.
In the Night Soil trilogy Bonajo explores in a semi-documentary style how people today tackle feelings of fragmentation and alienation head-on. The central characters in her videos are in search of new rituals, a different relationship with nature and a reassessment of ideas surrounding gender, with the aim of combating a gnawing sense of emptiness. It is far from rare for this to involve an illegal and alternative way of life that exists outside the established system. Bonajo portrays this with passion and elegance, and occasional bursts of absurdism, and she does not shrink from stepping into view herself. Beneath a layer of humour and apparent chaos lurks her ambivalent attitude to all kinds of technological and capitalist developments in modern society. Semi-documentary scenes alternate with hallucinogenic fragments that spring from Bonajo’s imagination. They are shaped by an intensive collaboration with the main characters. These are mainly women, because Bonajo believes their voices are insufficiently heard even today.
Night Soil #1/ Fake Paradise is a search for the healing effect of the hallucinatory drug Ayahuasca, that has been used for thousands of years in the Amazon region, on the mind and spirit of people today. Fake Paradise is also about the relationship between humans and nature. In Night Soil #2/ Economy of Love Bonajo portrays a group of female sex workers in Brooklyn who try to shake up our ideas about intimacy. By doing so they attempt to regain control over their own sexuality in a world dominated by the male gaze. Night Soil #3/ Nocturnal Gardening, the third and final part of the trilogy, is about radical ways of supplying food, about native land rights and about the racism hidden in our food system. The third part of Night Soil will have its premiere in Foam.
The Night Soil trilogy is presented in a total installation, made up of rooms with different atmospheres that completely submerge the visitor in the work. These psychedelic and hallucinatory spaces have been created by designers Clemence Seilles and Theo Demans.
FOAM – Keizersgracht 6091017 DS Amsterdam 020 551 6500
16 September – 7 December 2016