Melanie Bonajo to represent the Netherlands at the 2021 Venice Biennale
News update May 20 2020: Due to the consequences of Covid-19, the visual arts biennale has been postponed to 2022.
The artist selected to represent the Netherlands at the Venice Biennale in 2021 is Melanie Bonajo. A broad-based international jury selected Bonajo from a long list of artists and curators who had applied to take part in earlier versions of the biennale. Those selected were invited to submit an overall plan within a short space of time. A month later, these plans were presented to the jury, which was unanimous in determining that Melanie Bonajo would be representing the Netherlands. Bonajo will be working with a curatorial team consisting of Maaike Gouwenberg, Geir Haraldseth and Soraya Pol. Bonajo’s work will be presented at the Chiesetta della Misericordia in the Cannaregio neighbourhood in Venice.
In making its choice, the jury took not only the quality of the work into consideration, but also the impact that it will have on the international stage that is the Venice Biennale. The jury is confident that Bonajo will create a presentation that both impresses and inspires.
Members of the jury for the Dutch contribution to the 2021 Venice Biennale are: Kate Bush (curator Tate Modern), Stijn Huijts (director Bonnefantenmuseum), Hicham Khalidi (director Jan van Eyck Academy), Franziska Nori (director Frankfurter Kunstverein), Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi (curator MoMA – Museum of Modern Art, New York), Fatos Üstek (director Liverpool Biennale), Rieke Vos (curator Het HEM), and non-voting chairperson Eelco van der Lingen (director Mondriaan Fund).
For the 59th Venice Biennale, Bonajo will produce a new film, which will be presented together with a publication in an extensive, wide-ranging setting. Quoting from the plan for the project: ‘In Venice, Bonajo takes charge of the [human] body and hauls it up out of the claws of capitalism. Mel* absorbs you into The New Intimacy Movement. She challenges you to recognize and explore the body anew, as a means of connection, intimacy, touch and safety. You are swept along in adventures that stimulate all the senses: feeling is a form of intelligence, thinking through touch.’
Location of the Dutch pavilion in 2021
The Mondriaan Fund recently announced that the Dutch presentation for the 59th Venice Biennale would take place at a new location in the city. From among a number of options, Melanie Bonajo selected the Chiesetta della Misericordia, a deconsecrated 13th-century church. Director Eelco van der Lingen is delighted: ‘An exciting artist in an exciting location. The Chiesetta della Misericordia is a splendid building in the middle of the city. I am looking forward to seeing how that relates to the splendid work of Melanie Bonajo.’
For 2021, the Mondriaan Fund wants the Dutch presentation to take place outside the Rietveld Pavilion and the Giardini. Van der Lingen hopes to establish a new point of reference for the future. ‘For us, it is good to step out of our comfort zone and take a look around at what freedoms being outside the walls of the pavilion can generate. This also offers the Dutch contribution the opportunity to conceive a plan that does not have to take Rietveld, the pavilion, or the Giardini into account.’ The Mondriaan Fund has meanwhile invited Estonia to make use of the Rietveld Pavilion for the 2021 Venice Biennale.
About Melanie Bonajo
Melanie Bonajo makes films about the development and connections between intimacy, technological progress, stigmatization around gender and equality, feminism, ecology and feelings of alienation. In experimental documentaries, Bonajo uses humour and staged situations in order to highlight communities that find themselves in the margins of society, through cultural exclusion or illegality. These films are presented in installations designed in close collaboration with designer Théo Demans. In addition, Bonajo creates books, performances, music and events. Her plans for her presentation in Venice will be further developed and finalized in the coming months.
Melanie Bonajo’s work has been presented at Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2019), Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2019-20), Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht (2018), Riga International Biennale of Contemporary Art (2018), Frankfurter Kunstverein (2017) and the Tate Modern in London (2017).
The Mondriaan Fund
The Mondriaan Fund, the public fund for visual art and cultural heritage in the Netherlands, is responsible for the Dutch entry to the Venice Biennale. The presentation is financed from the international budget which the fund receives from the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.
For the Netherlands’ contribution to the 59th Venice Biennale in 2021, a radically new procedure was decided on, unlike the open calls used in previous years. Following the 2021 Venice Biennale, the Mondriaan Fund will examine the various options available and develop a new procedure for the future.
The 59th Venice Biennale is expected to open in May, 2021.
*Mel is the pronoun that Melanie Bonajo generally uses, expressly avoiding any specifically male or female gender identity.