Agosto Machado’s New York
In honor of World AIDS Day, the artist and activist speaks to filmmaker Tourmaline about his work and the city’s queer history.
Agosto Machado, Tourmaline
Nov 30, 2022
Agosto Machado is a crucial figure in the history of Downtown New York—a Chinese-Spanish-Filipino-American performance artist, activist, and Zelig-like icon who has thrived as a central participant in the city’s underground cultural life. With Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, he participated in the Stonewall uprising and first Gay Liberation March in 1970. It was during this heady period that the self-described “pre-Stonewall street queen” met Warhol Superstars Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn, Mario Montez, and Jackie Curtis, who introduced him to Andy Warhol’s Factory at a moment of explosive growth for New York’s underground theater and cinema. Machado became a prominent performer at influential venues like La MaMa, the Play-House of the Ridiculous, and the Pyramid Club, collaborating along the way with pivotal figures like Jack Smith, Ethyl Eichelberger, Stephen Varble, Angels of Light, and the Cockettes.
Machado has been a muse to generations of artists, appearing in works by Peter Hujar, Jack Pierson, Tabboo!, Collier Schorr, and Ryan McGinley. He also formed close relationships with Downtown artists like Martin Wong, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, and Arch Connelly, members of a generation ravaged by the AIDS crisis. Machado remains not only a witness but an archivist who has amassed a collection of artworks and ephemera that capture the urgency of a historical period marked by both dynamism and fragility. Over the years, in his apartment, he has forged from his collection a series of shrines—unique assemblages of snapshots, funeral notices, news clips, protest banners, prayer cards, and personal relics that powerfully transform his archive into totems for a lost generation. Recently, MoMA acquired one of these memorials, Shrine (White) (2022), from Machado’s first solo exhibition, held at Gordon Robichaux, New York earlier this year.
On the occasion of World AIDS Day, Machado is joined in conversation by artist, writer, filmmaker, and activist Tourmaline for an intergenerational reflection on survival, loss, and the possibility of finding transformation by attending to historical traumas.
—Stuart Comer, The Lonti Ebers Chief Curator of Media and Performance
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