Material Qualities of Sound: Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste, Bomb Magazine (interview)


In her response to Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste’s performance XXX-XXX-XXXX (2020), a performance conducted over a landline, Ladi’Sasha Jones writes: “The curved shell of the handset in my hand. The click of the hook switch as it interrupts the dial tone. Stuffing my fingers into the coils of the cord. The resounding beep that came from pushing the buttons.”

Reading Jones’s words took me back to two years ago when I spent all of 2020–21 in Nigeria at my parent’s home as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. I found myself spending two to three hours each day immersed in online research as I adjusted to a slowing down with all the extra time on my hands.

During this downtime, I came across Toussaint-Baptiste’s XXX-XXX-XXXX and decided to give it a call via Skype. Toussaint-Baptiste responded, which took me completely by surprise. Do I hang up? Do I continue? We ended up having an almost two-hour conversation, and throughout, while I processed images of speaking via the landline he had installed in his studio, I got transported to my childhood experiences of our own landline in Lagos: 01-587-4199. I was shocked to realise that I still remembered the number. Jones’s response so deftly reveals how “the performance’s impact lies in the way it shifts the viewer/listener’s experience of connection.”

Toussaint-Baptiste’s current exhibition, Set It Off, addresses affective and relational possibilities of sound through the perspectives of minimalism and a resistance to predetermined representations of Black American experiences by favouring instead abstract visual and sonic expressions of Blackness.

—Jareh Das