Philippa Price first caught our attention as the brains behind Rihanna's electrifying performance at the BRITs. Taking what was arguably 2016's song of the year, "Work," Philippa completely contrasted the Caribbean party scene that Director X created for the music video. Instead, Philippa imagined Rihanna in a dystopian sci-fi playground, with strips of white light distorting the vision of Rihanna, SZA, and her dancers.
Philippa is fast becoming a visual artist in demand. To describe her creatively: if everyone's moving left, Philippa is putting her foot on the pedal and making a sharp right. Based in Los Angeles, the 27-year-old artist and director channels her love of science, mythology, and technology into her creative output. Take her video for Banks's "Fuck With Myself" released earlier this year; for it, she created an eerie mould of Banks's head for the singer to play with.
Philippa caught the attention of Stella McCartney's team, who recently commissioned her to create a film for its #StellaBy project. That commission resulted in a psychedelic trip to the Nevada desert by way of the eerie Clown Motel, an area which served as a nuclear testing site in the 1940s. We sat down with Philippa and delved into her unique world.
Where did you grow up and what were you like?
I grew up in England until I was 10 and then moved to LA. I was pretty weird… a tomboy that rode horses as much as humanly possible, and was always creating elaborate art projects and inventions.
What did you study?
In high school, I was super into math and science. I actually won the California State Science Fair when I was 13! It wasn't until I was a senior that I decided to go to art school. I went to Parsons in NYC and studied Integrated Design which was a self-directed major. We basically got to take any class taught at Parsons, it was pretty rad.
Did you have any siblings? What was your family environment like?
I have two amazing younger sisters and they are my best friends. My family is awesome and my parents were very supportive of each of us growing up. I actually often wonder where the disturbing darkness in my work comes from.
You have a very distinct aesthetic. Where do you find inspiration?
Anywhere and everywhere. I read a lot — history, science, psychology, mythology, technology. My dreams definitely inspire me heavily, they are crazy. I'm super into America right now. I try my hardest to avoid Instagram and Tumblr as a source of inspiration as I feel like that's why everything is starting to look the same, but other than that, I find inspiration everywhere.
Your work seems to dabble with themes of sci-fi, dystopia, and distortion. Where does the interest come from?
I've been trying to figure that out myself. I've always been really into science, but I believe I must have had a few disturbing past lives. I was super accident-prone as a kid, had some really traumatic accidents so I spent a lot of time in hospitals growing up. I think that's where a lot of my sci-fi and distortion references comes from. I guess combining all my inspirations I create imagined worlds that my work lives in — and those always end up dystopian.
Describe your process.
That's hard to answer as it all depends on what it is I am creating. I'm pretty hands-on with all my work; I've taught myself how to do most of the components that go into each of the different mediums I work in. I've yet to find anyone who can do things the way I do. I've also found that the process of me playing around in the animation program or editing program, or playing around with lighting or projectors is how I discover new ways to create my work. Being very hands on is important to me.
How did you get into multimedia art and set design?
I've just never gotten stuck within one medium. At Parsons I studied fashion, film, graphic design, and illustration. After school I worked at an architecture firm, then started my own fashion brand called [GG$] Guns Germs $teal. Running the brand really enabled me to combine all of my interests in one place — designing clothes, directing lookbook films, and designing our branding. That lead me into music videos, which lead to stage design and visuals, and all the while I've continued to create my own art installations. I think I'm addicted to doing things that I don't know how to do, and figuring it out as I go. As soon as I've mastered something I'm ready to try something new.
How have the opportunities with the artists you have worked with — Rihanna, Banks, Lion Babe, Brooke Candy — come about?
It initially started with my brand and I think a lot of musicians wore the clothing, so they knew about me through that. When I stopped my brand and signed with Maavven, I started making music videos, and as my work became more known, more and more artists started reaching out.
What other medium would you like to explore and who are some of the artists you would like to work with?
To be honest, I feel like a lot of my work for the past couple years has been a collaboration, so I am currently focusing primarily on my own work. A long term collaboration of mine is with my insanely talented friend Nina McNeely, I am super excited about it. We are working on a crazy feature length film; it's definitely a medium where, like my fashion brand, I am able to combine so many of my interests into one.
Who is your dream person to collaborate with?
Dead: Nikola Tesla. Alive: not a person but NASA!
Text Lynette Nylander