Melanie Bonajo

Progress vs Sunsets - Re-formulating the Nature Documentary, 2017

Animals are the biggest stars on YouTube. Thousands of videos featuring wild or domesticated animals are viewed every day, especially by children. Frequently, these are their only source of information. In Progress vs Sunsets, Melanie Bonajo asks a group of primary school children placed against a backdrop of these animal videos about their thoughts on the environment and animal welfare. The children’s answers are naive but disarming: they have a distorted view of nature, but also large doses of idealism and empathy. Even so, their compassion for animals and nature has its limits. When asked: ‘What would you want to give to animals?’, one of the children answers: ‘I would be willing to sacrifice much of my luxurious lifestyle, as long as the rest of the world does the same.’

Bonajo has built an oeuvre focusing on marginalised figures such as hunter-gatherers or members of a sex commune. The children in her film also inhabit a reality just outside the mainstream. In the second part of the film, dressed in fantasy costumes, they take revenge on the polluting adult world by smashing up a wrecked car. The children are determined to make the world a better place and transform it to match their ideal. And they can be very blunt: ‘If you eat lamb, it’s the same as slaughtering a baby.’ Open-minded and unencumbered by adult preoccupations, their approach to complicated topics is straightforward: ‘We caused this problem, so we need to solve it.’


Melanie Bonajo (1978, The Netherlands) studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie Amsterdam and completed residencies at the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunst in Amsterdam and at ISCP in New York. She had her first international solo exhibition in FOAM, the Netherlands in 2016. In her videos, performances, photographs and installations, she challenges the traditional divisions between men and women, nature and technology. Bonajo explores the spiritual emptiness of her generation, examines peoples’ shifting relationship with nature and tries to understand existential questions. Melanie Bonajo will represent the Netherlands at the 59th Venice Biennale, 2022. 

Melanie Bonajo

Progress vs Sunsets - Re-formulating the Nature

Documentary, 2017

Full HD one-colour video with sound, 48’00”

Courtesy the artist and AKINCI