Robert Takahashi Crouch is an artist and curator who works across sound, performance, and technology — but whose commitment to creative and impactful curatorial visions is every bit as central to his practice as his own work. As an artist, he is interested in conceptual sound art, and creates avant-garde electronic music which he describes as “a conversation between tonality, context, history” and subjective experience and perspectives. Similarly, Crouch’s curatorial bent focuses on the ways in which sound, technology, movement, and performance generate phenomenological art events. Crouch is the former Associate Director/Curator at performance art-centric nonprofit kunsthalle LACE, and the founding partner of interdisciplinary curatorial project VOLUME, both of which prepared him for his current role as the Executive and Artistic Director for Fulcrum Arts — an organization championing culture at the crossroads of art and science, and whose efforts over the last year are currently culminating in the Fulcrum Festival, a cross-platform new media arts extravaganza happening live this week in venues around the region.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
ROBERT TAKAHASHI CROUCH: I tend to not identify as an artist in general. Art isn’t a thing that defines me as a person, it’s something I do, and it’s not the only thing I do. I am more interested in participating in the larger creative community, and sometimes I do that as an artist, and others as a curator, or fundraiser, or administrator. I am not sure what you’d call that, but “artist” feels too narrow. Most of the work I do is not about centering myself so I tend to avoid trying to announce myself in that way.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
That depends on when you ask me, but lately I’ve been wishing I had studied mathematics. I have no idea what sort of career path that would have opened up for me, but the more time I spend organizing interdisciplinary art and science projects through Fulcrum Arts, the more interested I become in the sciences in general. There is something about math as fundamental to engineering, economics, and the sciences that I find compelling.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes, six years of private art school and I am still paying off my loans! I went because, at the time, it was the only thing that interested me. I didn’t have much support from my family when I graduated high school, so I just drifted around for a few years until I decided to take a photography class at the local community college. Of course the medium itself was absolutely captivating, but the freedom to decide to make and study art was probably even more powerful. I don’t think people who come from a certain kind of privilege understand how prohibitive the arts, and arts education, can be. I remember the first time I went into a museum by myself. I was 19 and I stood at the doorway peering in for probably 30 minutes before I went in, and even then I kept thinking at some point someone would ask me to leave. When I worked as the Associate Director and Curator at LACE I would see this happen every day, where people would peer in and assume they weren’t “allowed” to come in. There is something fundamentally wrong with how we’ve positioned the arts in this country. The art world is still very good at letting people know they aren’t welcome.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
No joke, when I graduated CalArts I didn’t have enough money for gas to go back to San Francisco, so I figured I should just get a job until I could figure out where I should go. I got an internship at the MTA in the Metro Art department and met some absolutely amazing and supportive people. The staff came to all of my shows and really made the effort to make me feel welcome and respected. Kinda hard to complain when the first person you get to work with in a professional capacity is Alan Nakagawa! I didn’t plan to live in L.A. but things just clicked and I’ve stuck around.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
I have a new split cassette release with Yann Novak that just came out on The Tapeworm, and it features cover art by Dorian Wood. I am pretty proud of that one. I performed work from that release at the Touch.40 event at 2220 Arts + Archives a few months back.
I’ve spent the entire pandemic working on the Fulcrum Festival, which is up now through September 25th. It’s a regional initiative that focuses on the intersection of art and science, and this year the theme is “Deep Ocean/Deep Space.” I’ve co-curated a major installation, freq_wave (Pacific; Los Angeles) with Swedish artist CM von Hausswolff that runs from September 23-25 in the 100” Hooker Telescope at Mt. Wilson, and features contributions from an incredible cross section of artists and musicians including Jimena Sarno, Jónsi from Sigur Ros, Greg Anderson from Sunn 0))), Bethan Kellough, and 8 others from Australia, Japan, China, Colombia, and the US.
I also worked closely with Ciara Ennis at Pitzer College Art Galleries to organize Bending the River, an exhibition of new work by Lauren Bon and The Metabolic Studio focusing on their work with the L.A. River. I am very proud of this collaboration. I’ve worked with Ciara on several shows over the years, and I’ve long admired Lauren’s work and her fierce intellect. The show opens on September 24 and I am really happy to see how it is all coming together. Lauren’s work exemplifies what I am trying to do with Fulcrum Arts by instigating collaborations between the arts and sciences on a civic scale.
Right after the festival is over, I’m heading to NYC to perform with Julie Tolentino at the Whitney. It’s the last weekend of events for the most recent Whitney Biennial. Julie is one of my favorite artists and she and I have worked together on several occasions. The performance on October 7th will be a 8-hour performance with Julie and Stosh Fila performing a series of actions, with me providing sound. Julie and I have mapped out about eight 1-hour long interrelated scores that will unfold over the duration of the performance.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
That’s a big question. I’ll say for the moment it would be Eliane Radigue.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I used to joke that I wanted to make the kind of music that you could listen to while listening to other music.
Website and social media handles, please!
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