Lindsay Lohan in Richard Phillips Video Is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

Lindsay Lohan stars in "First Point" by Richard Phillips (Photo by Lucy Hogg)

I never thought Googling the words "Blake Gopnik" and "Lindsay Lohan" could return any hits. Thanks, however, to a work the starlet is in at the Basel art fair (and to this little note about it), my Google dreams could come true. The artist Richard Phillips has done a six-minute video projection of this blond bombshell surfing, and suntanning, and then in flight on the beach at night. (Read the Phillips interview by my colleague Isabel Wilkinson.) The cynical take would be that the entire artwork is riding Lohan's fame, just because it can, and that once again a gorgeous young woman with problems is being exploited for her media value. All the cliches of starlet-in-trouble are there, from her looking soulfully off into the distance (when she isn't batting her eyes at the camera), to her finding solace in a solitary encounter with nature (solitary, except for the film crew, and the body-double doing her surfing), to her fleeing paparazzi, to the video's final moment, at night, where she's running from some nameless horror (one female viewer saw echoes of snuff films). And then all this gets underlined and italicized by a portentously romantic score. The entire video could pass as a high-end ad for perfume or beachwear.

On the other hand ... those commercial and cultural cliches are so overloaded, it seems safer to read the work as some kind of commentary on them. Lohan is so clearly Marilyn-ish in this piece, that there's a sense of her deliberately inhabiting the role of star-crossed blonde, so as to take control of it. And after Warhol, can any artist's encounter with a starlet be read as entirely straight? There's a sense that it's not only Lohan who is on display in Phillips's work; it's also us, in the audience, and our insane and inane fascination with her, and with the cliches she delivers.

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