Thessia Machado

Sound Artist, Composer
Born 1967, Curitiba, Brazil
Lives in New York, NY


Thessia Machado is a visual/sound artist, instrument builder, and composer. Her work plumbs the materiality of sound and its effect on our shifting perceptions of space. Machado creates circumstances in which to mine the matter of her pieces, uncovering their innate physical properties and the sonic and visual relationships that can arise from their interactions. In her performed works, the ensemble of things is augmented by a dynamically responsive and intentionally unpredictable human element.

Machado's compositions often include instruments of her own invention, such as measures (2016), an arduino-controlled electro-mechanical sound object/instrument. In photosonic field (2016), a field of sound-producing, light-sensitive circuits are activated and conducted by light, plying the concepts of the autonomous sound source and graphical score. The room size instrument/installation REC/PLAY (2013) allowed for the merging of two parallel strands in Machado's work, the architectural installation and the live-performance instrument. In a three-night series of the work, other musicians were invited to bring their own sounds to improvise with the small orchestra of mechanical instruments. Machado collaborated with artist Merche Blasco in the project re(p)l(a)y (2013), an installation/apparatus to be used as a platform for musical exchange. The collaboration culminated in a month-long exhibition and performance series at REVERSE art gallery, featuring 8 duos of invited performers who interacted with the apparatus.

Machado's sculptures, drawings and installations have been shown at BRIC Arts, Brooklyn; TENRI – German-Japanese Cultural Centre, Cologne, Germany; Boston Cyberarts, Boston; and District-Berlin, Berlin, Germany. She has been an Artist-in-Residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (2006); The MacDowell Colony (2009); Yaddo (2011); NARS Foundation (2013); Homesession, Barcelona (2013); and Harvestworks New Works (2016).

She is the recipient of fellowships from The Bronx Museum (2004); New York Foundation for the Arts (2005, finalist 2011); The Experimental Television Center (2009); and was awarded an Inga Maren Otto fellowship in composition at the American Academy in Berlin (2017).

Artist Statement

I've always been interested in the mechanical aspects of things: how things work and are affected by other things—interactivity of a tangible sort.

Working with sound allows me to think of the air in which we all swim as yet another malleable and responsive, physical material. It gets pushed around by sound waves and it, in turn, pushes in on our bodies and the spaces we are in, both defining and permeating these boundaries. As it bounces and is deflected by the different materials and objects, sound changes and acquires a new character that is particular to the place and time of the event—both time- and site-specific.

A non-hierarchical approach to sound (isn't it all noise?) and its organizational principles (this doesn't sound like music!) allows for the uncovering and exposing of latent patterns and systems that hide in the unremarkable. A way to welcome the incidental rhythms and juxtapositions from the myriad devices and noises we are all surrounded by. The aim is to play with and explore simple and ingenious ways to extract the most poetic content with the least imposition onto the materials.

The sound of physics.

Mechanical and electronic.

Rubber bands and sine waves.

December 2016