Thessia Machado’s Sound Art

By · Photography · Date 05/11/2017

In his book Skyfaring: A Journey With a Pilot, Mark Vanhoenacker writes, “The truth that air is as substantive as concrete remains as counterintuitive as any of science’s most inscrutable revelations.” The sound artist Thessia Machado makes a similar statement: “Working with sound allows me to think of the air in which we all swim as yet another malleable and responsive, physical material,” she has said. Machado is currently a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. We met up with her on a rainy afternoon to photograph and discuss her new installation “Telix,” which will open in the gallery SOMOS here on May 17.

“My friend said, ‘We have a fax machine that we’re going to throw out. Do you want it?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ And that is the piece.”

“It was late at night. I was coming back from an event. And there was this one escalator that had this really cool rhythm going, so I just recorded it.”

“There’s a lot of untangling wires—I feel like that’s half my life.”

“The thing about reversing sounds that I found, especially with a piano that has such a long decay, is that it actually creates this sense of tension. Instead of playing the chord and having the release, it’s this building up to something.”

“I try to keep a space safe for the piece to tell me what it wants to be.”

“One of the bigger speakers I found on a TV set in the street. I was walking with two fellows, and we saw this, and we were like, ‘speakers.’ So they helped me get them out. Right there on the street. We didn’t have tools, so we were jumping on it to break the plastic.”

“It’s that sense of danger that you as an artist have to put yourself into. Something has to be at stake.”

“Should I turn it on?” ¶

Jeffrey Arlo Brown

... has been an editor at VAN since 2015. His work has also appeared in Slate, The Baffler, The Outline, The Calvert Journal, and Electric Lit. He lives in Berlin.