Published 06/11/2023 | 13:01

melanie bonajo’s exhibition on body and touch opens at the Kumu Art Museum

melanie bonajo. When the body says Yes. 2022. Video still. Scenography and installation in collaboration with Théo Demans, commissioned by the Mondriaan Fund. Courtesy of the artist and AKINCI

On 10 November, the exhibition When the body says Yes+ by the internationally renowned contemporary Dutch artist melanie bonajo (they/them/theirs) will open in the Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn, Estonia. In their works, the artist seeks to answer the question of whether there is still a place for intimacy in today’s increasingly commercialised and technological world. With the title piece, bonajo represented the Netherlands at the 2022 Venice Biennale.

melanie bonajo is interested in communities outside the mainstream, on the margins of society, either through cultural exclusion or because they do not belong to a normative system. Issues of ethical and empathic coexistence, body politics, equality and alternative forms of perception of the world and oneself are prominent in bonajo’s work.

“The focus of the exhibition is on touch and intimacy, and it addresses the very important issues of consent and personal and social boundaries and taboos. The exhibition also explores the subjects of intimacy deficiency, ageing and the accompanying loneliness. bonajo looks at these themes from a queer perspective, asking what is considered ‘normal’ and why, and calling for us to be more empathetic, inclusive and aware of our own needs and peculiarities and those of others,” said the curator Maria Arusoo.

“At the Venice Biennale, it was clear from the beginning that melanie bonajo’s work would fit well into Kumu’s exhibition programme. We want to show contemporary, visually engaging art that touches on important and poignant issues in society,” said Kadi Polli, Director of the Kumu Art Museum.

The exhibition features four experimental documentaries. In addition to the immersive and sensitive centrepiece When the body says Yes, three of bonajo’s earlier works are included, exploring the themes of intimacy and the search for contact.

All of the works are accompanied by installations by the scenographer Théo Demans, with whom bonajo mainly collaborates. The exhibition space has been transformed into a sensory and playful environment through which the themes are projected from screens to the physical space, transforming a visit to the exhibition into a bodily experience.

The opening days of the exhibition will be accompanied by a diverse public programme. On Friday, 10 November at 5 pm, there will be an Artist Talk with melanie bonajo, led by the curator Maria Arusoo. On Saturday, 11 November at 3 pm, melanie bonajo will conduct the workshop Consentship (in English), exploring the topics of boundaries and consent.  Also on Saturday there will be a movement and body awareness workshop for children, and curatorial tours by Maria Arusoo in Estonian and English. On Sunday, exhibition guides will give short introductions to the exhibition each hour throughout the day. A varied programme of events for the public, organised in collaboration with various partners, will continue throughout the exhibition period. Secondary school students are invited to take part in a museum lesson on body awareness and sexuality linked to the school health education curriculum.

The exhibition will be open until 28 April 2024.

Curator: Maria Arusoo
Scenography: Théo Demans
Graphic design: Ott Metusala
Exhibition coordinator: Inga Jaagus

With the support of the Mondriaan Fund and Invaru