Melanie Bonajo

In her videos, performances, photographs and installations, Melanie Bonajo studies how technological advances and commodity-based pleasures increase feelings of alienation, and she focuses on issues such as community, equality and body politics. Bonajo explores the spiritual emptiness of her generation and examines peoples’ shifting relationships in a rapidly moving and changing world. Night Soil – Economy of Love (the second film in Bonajo’s trilogy Night Soil) portrays a Brooklyn-based movement of female sex workers. The film recalls the radical politics of the 1960s to meditate on issues around sexual liberation and “free love” today. The video consists of personal accounts by three female sex workers, who see their profession as healers, and is a radical overhaul of the way we perceive them, from a decidedly feminist stance. These women view their work as a way for women to reclaim power in a male-dominated pleasure zone, their mission being to rearrange sexual conventions and ideas about intimacy. Vivid erotic imagery and a spoken score reveal expectations surrounding gender roles through playful, sensual and feminist-inspired means, while also manifesting Bonajo’s vision of contemporary spirituality and the ‘wisdom of femininity’. At the same time, the film recalls the emancipatory issues brought to the fore by the feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s, along with their proclamation of sexual liberation and a free, unrestrained understanding of love. In our contemporary world where a swipe on a smartphone can grant access to supermarket sex, where social media tends to create an alternate form of loneliness and where we are increasingly disconnected from the physical world, Bonajo questions the complex relationships that exist within societies, challenging the traditional notions of love and examining the mechanisms that cause alienation from each other, society and nature.

Melanie Bonajo