Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Music/Sound 2017

Thessia Machado

  • 2017 Grants to Artists
  • Music/Sound
  • Sound Artist, Composer
  • Born 1967, Curitiba, Brazil
  • Lives in New York, NY
  • Additional Information

The truly significant part played by the grant was in giving me the freedom not to take any freelance work during this period. Knowing that I had the rent for my studio and apartment solved, I could use my mental energies to really concentrate on the needs of the pieces. To focus on the development and growth of a piece without external constraints allows me to seek and explore whole new avenues of research. It is during these moments that, I've found, my work takes these leaps in conceptual depth and technical complexity. Being free to think of nothing but art (well mostly), paradoxically lets one be more accepting and even inviting of surprises and serendipitous developments in the work.

- Thessia Machado, December 15, 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


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 2017 Grants to Artists award supported the fabrication of two sound installations, telix y(e)arn (2017), at BRIC Arts, Brooklyn, and pitch & yaw (2017), at The Drawing Center, New York. Her 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).

Two record players on a white table, each with a yellow and red record on them and various wooden equipment. On the side of the table under each record two headphones hang silver screwed hangers.

Installation view of turntables, in The (S) Files Biennial, El Museo del Barrio, New York, 2011. Photo by Armando Croda.

Installation view of FCA-supported pitch & yaw, at The Drawing Center, New York, 2017.

Installation view of FCA-supported telix y(e)arn, at BRIC Arts, Brooklyn, 2017.

White and yellow cables stuck on a white wall connecting with multiple small electronic devices in circular and square shapes. At the end of the cables where two red plugs have been stuck, are projected a white line and numbers.

Installation view of photosonic field, in Open Sessions 7: Hibernating Plan, The Drawing Center, New York, 2016. Photo courtesy the artist.

Installation view of photosonic field, in Open Sessions 7: Hibernating Plan, The Drawing Center, New York, 2016.

Figure standing behind a desk cluttered with tech support, cables and a laptop as an audience behind them watches. On each side of the desk two curved beige wooden panels support white strings, from which a blurry image close to the viewer hangs.

Performance still from TRICOT re(p)l(a)y, at ART JAM IV, PLATFORM, New York, 2013. Performer: Merche Blasco. Photo by James Holland.

TRICOT re(p)l(a)y, with Merche Blasco, at ART JAM IV, PLATFORM, New York, 2013.

REC/PLAY, with Maitane Beaumont, Wú::Collective and Lolo & Sosaku, at Homesession, Barcelona, Spain, 2013.

Three aligned figures their facial features shadowed, hunch above cable and tech support.

Performance still from feed the tiger, electronic trio with Merche Blasco and Slavo Krekovic, Brooklyn Fire Proof, Brooklyn, 2012.

A rose gold motherboard with a square green device on the left side and a rectangular black device on the right, on top of a white surface.

Installation view of translux, in air we swim in, BRIC Arts, Brooklyn, 2011. Photo courtesy the artist.