Pop Live

Steve Lafreniere in Williamsburg


Left: Phiiliip performing. Top right (left to right): John Connelly, Kathy Grayson, Jeffrey Deitch. Bottom right (left to right): Grant Worth, Michael Magnan, Alex Tuttle. (Photos: Conrad Ventur.)

Maybe it was the ice-cream truck dispensing free sundaes out front or the guffawing long-haired dude boinging up and down on the trampoline inside, but the opening of “Phiiliip: Divided By Lightning” at Deitch Projects’ Williamsburg outpost felt like a decidedly off-kilter fun fair. Phiiliip—né Philip Guichard—is the 24-year-old cipher whose home-recorded album Pet Cancer made all the best-of lists in 2001. He’s also a club entrepreneur, DJ, and part-time Dior model with one glittery foot plopped in Scott Hug’s K48 magazine scene. “P:DBL,” organized by John Connelly Presents and produced by Deitch Projects, is a kind of invitational inquest into the persona of an underground New York pop star (that would be Phiiliip) on the verge of releasing a new album titled Divided By Lightning. The walls of the vast space were covered with drawings, paintings, and photos paying homage to the man of the hour, while music videos for his (actual) album’s songs streamed past on a large screen above an empty stage. The videos—notably, Bengala’s sun-dappled retool of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1972 Brother Sun, Sister Moon and a hypnotic anime by Adam Shecter that looked like what a Tetris game might dream about—were full-on FUSE-ready affairs. All of this visual merch was produced, at Phiiliip’s behest, by fellow artists, many of whom were in attendance: Amy Gartrell, Andrew Guenther, AA Bronson (wondering aloud if the crowd wasn’t a little young to fathom his tweaked T.Rex LP cover), videog-terrible Danny Hobart, Vice magazine editor Amy Kellner, and ace photographers Leeta Harding, Hanna Liden, and Conrad Ventur (dispensing much sought-after complimentary copies of his new magazine Useless). Anna Sew Hoy, who contributed a melancholic melted crown to the show, was in town from LA, and looking nostalgic for her good old New York days (way back in 2001). Recent New York immigrant Boy George, whose spot-on impersonation of Phiiliip on the album is truly hilarious, was seen heading for the aforementioned ice-cream truck, while Deitch père himself ambled through the crowd, bemused as ever at all that he’s wrought (he should be—Deitch Projects Brooklyn has consistently hit the heights with shows by Hug and Viva Ruiz, and a weekly Fischerspooner salon). When Phiiliip hit the stage for a live version of “Summer Collection,” the album’s pounding opener, he was dwarfed by the video doppelganger projected above—the one in the off-the-shoulder, eleven-foot cape spraying stars, birds, and fireworks into a perfect summer sky with a ghostly Empire State Building flickering in the near distance. Pop art? Meet pop life.

The trampoline in use. (Photo: Amy Kellner)

Clockwise from top left: Phiiliip after his performance; Suzanne Ackermann's miniature diorama (photos: Amy Kellner); K48 impresario Scott Hug (photo: Conrad Ventur).

Grant Worth, video still from Summer Collection, 2004.

Phiiliip on stage. (Photo: Conrad Ventur)