J. CHRISTOPHER DUPUY (intro): On February 25th 2014 I sat down with artists Red Cell and JC Gonzo, collectively known as The Product Division. They were living and stationed in Santa Fe, New Mexico and were planning to relocate to Tangier. I wanted to get down some words before they left, and take the bulk of the interview after they arrived.
My questions are in ORANGE. Their answers are, obviously, not.
J. CHRISTOPHER DUPUY: Who?
THE PRODUCT DIVISION: The Product Division (JC Gonzo and Red Cell)
TPD: The Product Division is a Third Mind effort from conceptual artists JC Gonzo and Red Cell, who operate as a provider of portals past or through the control systems we all must navigate in society.
The Product Division develop works in many fields including Video Art, Performance Art, Music, New Media, Installation, Site Specific, Sculpture, Writing, Futuristic/Primitive Arts and Photography.
The Product Division believe in heart before mastery and guidance without dogmas. They are agents for the emerging Technomad culture being formed in our rapidly evolving post-human society.
TPD: The Future / Now
TPD: The Product Division is currently selling everything they own and moving to Tangier, Morocco. But, first we will be on the small volcanic Portuguese island of Faial in the Azores for three months at Angie Reed’s (Stereo Total, Barbara Brockhaus) cottage, working on ‘The Future.’
TPD: With abandon and distinction.
TPD: Because there is more than fighting the system. There are other portals one may take.
JCD: One word, one sentence or fifty:
TPD: Be anything forbidden.
JCD: I feel like so many labels describe what you do, what do you think is sufficient and accurate right now?
TPD: We’re the New Expatriate, the Technomad. Next in the lineage of those in search of minds without constraint. Life is the function, byproducts are not vital. Assassins. Agents. Armed with whatever is in front of us.
JCD: What do you want it to be eventually?
TPD: A touchstone for future expatriate artists, culture shifters and criminal intellectuals.
On July 21st 2014 The Product Division were firmly stationed in Tangier. We chatted for a bit about their plans, identity, art, music, books and their new project “RePoRTal.”
JCD: Last we talked you were in Santa Fe, NM. But do you see yourself as a collective “out of New Mexico?”
TPD: We are Nomadic in principle and occasionally in action. Right now our home is Tangier, then Berlin, then…who knows?
On the point of “collective”: we are not a collective. Rather, we are a third mind effort of two people in the vein of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Two minds, personalities, ideologies coming together to form a third mind from which the conceptual works flow.
JCD: So it’s almost Hegelian: combining thesis and antithesis to form synthesis…interesting.. okay, so you were in New Mexico, now you’re in Tangier, but this wasn’t a direct transition…what was the exact connection?
TPD: We made friends with the musician Angie Reed (Stereo Total, Barbara Brockhaus) and we were invited to do a three month residency at her cottage in the Azores Islands.
JCD: Can you explain the Burroughs/Gysin thing a bit more?
TPD: Burroughs and Gysin wrote a book titled The Third Mind in which they explained the idea fully and they presented the efforts of such ideals. For us, it is a way to get past the ego found in most working relationships, particularly those in so-called democratic art making situations. Tangier has always been our eventual Mecca, being a Burroughs / Gysin lover.
JCD: Okay, but Burroughs lived everywhere. He was born in Saint Louis, so why go to Tangier? You could have just come to Saint Louis; I’m in Saint Louis…are you avoiding me?
TPD: You are one to be avoided, surely.
JCD: But Tangier has some particular pull I assume?
TPD: Putting the allure of Tangier into a few sentences is challenging. Let’s just say it maintains a point of energy in time and space that calls to a certain type of artist.
JCD: Can we go back a bit? I knew you from earlier projects, like The Process and End of Being, do you see these as a continuation that lead to The Product Division or separate projects? Can you talk about those two earlier works, especially for anyone who doesn’t know about your trajectory?\(full disclosure: I read from my own work during one of The Process’ events: Word Virus)
TPD: Our cultural website, The End of Being, which deals with difficult art, film, music, people, and ideas is still going strong. It could be considered in some ways to be one of our predecessors because it deals with challenging cultural norms. Aside from that, it is a different entity entirely.
The Process was a 6 or 7 year long project aimed at bringing diverse acts to Santa Fe that would otherwise skip the southwest. I did it with the good will and help of many amazing friends.
My work with The Product Division is much more about JC Gonzo and my work, not facilitating others’ work, although, we do collaborate quite a bit with other artists.
JCD: Do you each play a particular role? Serve parts of the whole or is everything interchangeable?
TPD: As I illustrated earlier, the idea is to have a singular “third mind” create all works and concepts. This IS the entity that is The Product Division. So, no one has any particular role, no.
JCD: I figured as much– and I have to say it’s such a fascinating project. Can you tell us where the name comes from? Do you even want to?
TPD: Sure. Being conceptual artists, much of what we do centers around ideas and not necessarily the end result, or the “product.” The idea that the process is the product is one of our guiding principles. This is not to say we do not produce tangible works–we do. But, the emphasis in the art world on the production of art seems misguided at best to us. So, the name of, “The Product Division,” is bringing attention to these issues.
JCD: I can’t believe I didn’t ask…when exactly did you form?
TPD: We formed in 2009/10
JCD: So this is an emphasis on the means rather than the end?
TPD: Often, yes. Or paying equal attention to the ideas/concepts in the journey of the product, as much as the product itself.
JCD: So what would you say if I told you that Josh Groban’s mother was Crispin Glover’s high school art teacher?
TPD: I would say that evil is everywhere.
JCD: Nice. Well played…. and we’re back…You’ve done some performances as The Product Division in Santa Fe that I’ve heard amazing things about, can you talk a bit about what you’ve done so far together and what you’re working on?
TPD: We have been lucky to be asked to participate in some outstanding events. For the first three years of our collaboration, we did very little publicly. We were instead focusing on building a language between us with which to build a universe from. The first real efforts of this universe were publicly shown in 2013. We have performed at events ranging from the writer Bett Williams’ (The Wrestling Party) house salons to High Mayhem Emerging Arts’ Fall Festival, and to gracing the same stage as the experimental visionary JA “Dino” Deane. We’ve played with Low on High (Jon Moritsugu and Amy Davis) for their album release party. We have gotten around considering it was our first year in public. And these are just the music specific type performances we did.
We also were one of the acts who opened Raven Chacon’s and Post Commodity’s new space, Spirit Abuse, in Albuquerque, NM. We shared the bill with curator Candice Hopkins, who just unveiled a new game changing show she has been collaborating on for SITE Santa Fe that re-invents the entire concept of biennials.
JCD: What I think I’m getting from you is that everything is primary, is that right?
Can you talk about what other projects/ mediums you’re looking to get into?
I anticipate that there’s nothing you won’t attempt to try, that everything could be attempted in the process of expression.
TPD: Yes! As conceptual artists, the medium for us is determined by the idea. We put heart before mastery, not that we are against mastery, but I would rather listen to Half Japanese spill their heart out any day over listening to a perfectly skilled studio musician with no heart.
JCD: Well we just lost all of our Rush fans…
The most important fascinating thing going on right now is the RePoRTal project. What can you say about RePoRTal that’s not in the press release? (specific details about RePoRTal can be found HERE.
TPD: Only that we have done a ton of research on the idea of fan clubs, subscriptions formats, sharing your life and works and platforms to do it, and we think we may have a unique idea. We do not think anyone has done just what we are proposing previously in the art world. There are things that may incorporate portions of our idea, but not all. And in the art world, something that no one else has done is a big deal. So, we’re pretty proud of it.
JCD: I have to say it reminds me of a being a kid and sending away for things from the back of comics or when we could buy cassettes and join a band’s fan club and mix that with 80s artists and all the artists mailing each other work, and the factory, and Jack White’s current subscription service–the excitement of sending away and receiving, and the nostalgia…and and? what else am I missing?
TPD: Well, those are all about the end product, aren’t they? Also, on one specific thing, like a band giving you an unreleased song, etc. Ours is unique in the way it focuses on all of our various exploits and productions over a one period of time. Look at it this way: it is a singular work of art that exposes everything an artists does over the course of a year. And for us, that incorporates a LOT of various things.
JCD: Oh, I like that, so it’s participatory in a way.
TPD: Yes! You discover what we discover. Who the hell knows what that may be? It mechanizes the artists’ process as the final product, see? We have shifted the focus and are delivering it to your inbox and mailbox.
JCD: So it will be both traditional and electronic, so every person is guaranteed to get some physical and ephemeral products from The Product Division?
TPD: Yes, the mail art is the physical dispatch, the rest is transmitted via the interwebs. This is the only way to make it sustainable.
JCD: This is an incredibly exciting project.
TPD: One last thing about our Art/Life project RePoRTal is that we are not the only ones who are a part of it. We are collaborating everywhere we end up, with emerging artists as well as a few famous ones. There are interviews and even works contributed from these people every month, as well as our own work.
JCD: So before I edit this to make my questions look much more interesting and exciting than they were… you’ve spent a good part of your life completely immersed in art and artists of all mediums, are you willing to give out some recommendations?
TPD: For what in particular?
JCD: Whatever you’re comfortable with…how about for starters…who do you think we should be listening to right now that we’re probably not? past or present
TPD: Ok, the three contemporary things currently in my continuous playlist and in no particular order are:
1 - OOIOO – Gamel
JCD: Thanks. As usual I haven’t heard any of these. I think the last recommendation you gave me was Zola Jesus and she should be on everyone’s playlist.
Alright, almost done– what two to five films have affected you most as an artist?
1 – Naked Lunch, David Cronenberg, 1991
2 – Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees, David Blair, 1991
3 – The Limits of Control, Jim Jarmusch, 2009
4 – Kafka, Steven Soderbergh, 1991
5 – Alien, Ridley Scott, 1979
6 – The Third Man, Carol Reed, 1949
7 – The Cremaster Cycle, Matthew Barney
JCD: And to go back to the RePoRTal thread…this won’t merely take place in Tangier… you are heading to Berlin next and I assume some projects began in the Azores Islands, right?
TPD: Yes, we did. And after Berlin, who knows?
JCD: What about artists?
TPD: Instead of specific artists, howzabout this?
1 – Fluxus
2 – Video Art
3 – Performance Art
JCD: Of course if anyone wants to listen to some of your thoughts on music you have a podcast on MixCloud HERE (for anyone interested the 80s Sex Cult podcast is a great starting point)
TPD: You can also find the podcast where we play things we currently like on our website, The End of Being.
JCD: Did I leave anything out? Anything else you want to share?
1 – William S. Burroughs
2 – Kathy Acker
3 – Brion Gysin
4 – Ray Bradbury
5 – William Gibson
One last thing
TPD: If you are going to share what I’m currently listening to, and our inspirations in other categories, could you also include a list of bands?
JCD: Yeah, I’d love to see that list.
1 – COIL
2 – Tom Waits
3 – Laurie Anderson
4 – PJ Harvey
5 – Depeche Mode
JCD: Very interesting list… are those the top five? Or top-ish five? Or top five-ish?
TPD: Top five-ish. The real list is more like 500 bands long.
JCD: I think that’s it. I need a final line like, “Boomer Lives!” do you have any suggestions?
TPD: Two, please.
The Process is the Product.
Be Anything Forbidden. – Hakim Bey
:::Follow up later that day:::
JCD: I’m going to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in Detroit. Thoughts on Nicole Atkins, the opening act?
TPD: Love her
JCD: Really!? Oh that’s great! Tell me more.
TPD: What’s to tell? Just go listen.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
THE PRODUCT DIVISION is a working collaborative of conceptual artists Red Cell & JC Gonzo, creating multidisciplinary works in Video Art, Performance Art, New Media, Music, Installation, Site Specific, Futuristic/Primitive Arts, Writing and Photography.
J. CHRISTOPHER DUPUY is a graduate of the MFA in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. Upon graduation he was invited to continue on as a lecturer. He is currently working on a novel.