Blackness fills the space.
The ICA at VCU's newest exhibition, "Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste: Set It Off," is a continuation of the artist's research of “hyper-audible” object-environments, in which inaudible tones are physically felt within the body using ultra low-frequency subwoofers and darkness. (ICA at VCU)

ICA at VCU presents ‘Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste: Set It Off’ sound installation

The exhibition consists of variations of a monumental, immersive, sonic sculpture installed across two sites.

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The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University and 1708 Gallery present a sound installation by New York-based artist/composer Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste that invites visitors to deeply engage with the site, considering the implications of sound, visibility and performance.

“Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste: Set It Off” opens Friday, Oct. 29, with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. that is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged. The event will take place at both the ICA and 1708 Gallery. The reception at both locations will feature performances, DJ sets and remarks from the artist as well as co-curators Amber Esseiva, an associate curator at the ICA, and Park C. Myers, the 1708 Gallery Royall Family Curator.

“Set It Off” is a dual-site exhibition by Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste. The exhibition, on view through Jan. 23 at 1708 Gallery and June 19 at the ICA, consists of two variations of a monumental, immersive, sonic sculpture. At the ICA, visitors are invited to enter two large-scale black cubes made of wood, polyethylene and tinted glass. At 1708 Gallery, visitors will encounter a black square pool built of similar materials. Each structure uniquely incorporates the circulation of water from the James River, reminding visitors to consider their bodies as mediums for environmental pollutants.

Close-in portrait of Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste, situated in front of a window.
Artist Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste. (ICA at VCU)

Since the 1980s, music has been used to push the limits of car audio and sound systems. Inescapable in many U.S. cities, bass produces deep affinities but also aversions and sensitivities. “Set It Off” intends to shake the room, using the car audio system as the most recognizable transmitter of bass. 

Using sonic frequencies that register just below human audibility, the installations will provide a series of site-specific experiences for sound to be deeply felt.

The opening reception will celebrate the memory and legacy of former vice rector of the VCU Board of Visitors and longtime VCU benefactor Bill Royall. Royall was inaugural co-chair of the Institute for Contemporary Art’s Advisory Board. His wife, Pam Royall, continues the family’s support of the ICA and 1708 Gallery.

“Bill loved contemporary art because he loved new possibilities,” said Dominic Asmall Willsdon, executive director of the ICA at VCU. “For him, art was about doing things differently, making it new, seeing how the future could be better than the past. He wanted the ICA to be an agent of change. We are doing our best to honor his legacy.”

“Bill cherished his friendships with artists and seemed to truly be inspired by not only the finished work but also by their processes,” said Emily Smith, executive director of 1708 Gallery. “He recognized and really celebrated the fact that the path from idea to finished artwork is never linear but has detours, diversions and new discoveries. Our work at 1708 charts a similar course and we take much inspiration from the model Bill gave us for being a partner to and a champion of artists.”

On Saturday, Oct. 30, Toussaint-Baptiste will lead sound walks, referred to as “pushes” throughout Jackson Ward and Monroe Ward. Push 1 starts at noon at 1708 Gallery, 319 W. Broad St. Push 2 starts at 4 p.m. at the ICA. Each tour will be between 30 and 45 minutes.