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).
The video installation called TouchMETell allows children (and adults) to think and talk about intimacy, their limits and body awareness. melanie bonajo and a group of children aged 6-8 investigate how they experience their own body and physical contact with others. melanie uses open interview techniques and kinaesthetic forms of play which take place in a soft, fuzzy, cuddly and multi-coloured landscape of different formed objects. ‘What is sex? Does love have anything to do with sex? Can you feel emotional pain in your body? What are feelings? Are you ever lonely?’ Is a selection of the many questions bonajo asks the children while they push, hug, paint or stroke each other.
With TouchMETell bonajo wants to initiate a discussion about boundaries, gender roles, physical autonomy and intimacy and the lack of physical contact in this digital age. We seem to have forgotten the language of the body. In a world where digital contact predominates, many of us are increasingly struggling with intimacy and defining boundaries and needs. What does the lump in my throat or the knot in my stomach tell me? Our proverbial language reveals the wisdom of the body, but how can we really learn to listen to it? TouchMETell offers a counterbalance in our digital culture and the current taboo around physical intimacy. What are limits? How do I discuss this with the other person? What is physical autonomy? What is love? All topics that are discussed and that help the children learn to trust each other. They discover the difference between giving and receiving.