No Ghost Just a Shell


»No Ghost Just a Shell« was initiated by Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe in 1999. They acquired the copyright for a figure called 'Annlee' and her original image from the Japanese agency »Kworks«, which develops figures (almost actors) for cartoons, comic strips, advertising and video games of the booming Japanese Manga industry. 'Annlee' was a cheap model: the price of a Manga figure relates to the complexity of its character traits and thus its ability to adapt to a story-line and 'survive' several episodes. 'Annlee' had no particular qualities, and so she would have disappeared from the scene very quickly. "True heroes are rare and extremely expensive …" Buying 'Annlee' rescued her from an industry that had condemned her to death.

The »No Ghost Just a Shell« project was intended to go on for a number of years. It offered 'Annlee' free of charge to a series of artists, 'commissioned' by the initiators, to be used for their 'own' stories. At the same time, the artists set up production facilities in Paris, co-ordinated by Anna-Léna Vaney, mainly so that elaborate and expensive video animation was available for the figure. Each of the projects realized with 'Annlee' is a "chapter in the history of a sign", and has a 'life' in the context of the individual artists' activities and within the joint project. The 'life-prolonging' measures taken by the »No Ghost Just a Shell« project for a short-lived, virtual and commercial being actually raise some 'melancholy' humanitarian questions, but also undermine economic mechanisms by allowing a product that is otherwise viable only in a commercial context to be used free of charge; the artists' autonomous production conditions are another factor.

The film and music industries, and the internet, face us with copyright questions nowadays. The project addresses those issues as well overlaps with questions about how identity and difference can be formulated today, given the current demand for the mastery of multiple individual subject realizations. The exhibition in the Kunsthalle Zürich is showing all the works associated with the 'Annlee' figure together for the first time. Henri Barande (CH), Francois Curlet (1967, Paris), Liam Gillick (1964, London and New York), Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (1965, Paris), Pierre Huyghe (1962, Paris), Pierre Joseph (1965, Nice) with Mehdi Belhaj-Kacem, M/M Paris (founded 1991, Mathias Augustyniak, 1967, and Michael Amzalag, 1968), Melik Ohanian (1969, Paris), Philippe Parreno (1964, Paris), Richard Phillips (1962, New York), Joe Scanlan (1961, Connecticut), Rirkrit Tiravanija (1961, New York), Anna-Léna Vaney (1970, Paris) have filled this figure's empty 'shell' with all sorts of ideas and manifestations in the form of video animations, paintings, posters, books, neon works and sculptures. After the series of »No Ghost Just a Shell« exhibitions in the Kunsthalle Zürich, the Institute for Visual Culture Cambridge and the SF MOMA, San Francisco (both from December 2002), artists will no longer be able to take the initiative in making works using 'Annlee' as a digital model: 'Annlee' is getting a contract that transfers copyright and exploitation rights to her. Joe Scanlan's IKEA coffin for 'Annlee' and the contract liberating her from circulation and economic and artistic exploitation are shown in the same exhibition room. Whether, how, through whom and with what identity the figure, the sign, 'lives on' remains to be seen.

The »No Ghost Just a Shell« project creates connections and networks between the artists and the venues involved in the exhibitions that are not like the way artworks are usually exhibited. Here the 'same' image infiltrates a whole range of locations and contexts as part of individual artistic practice: a multiplication of the effects of production, presentation and reception, a multiplication of the same as a form of difference.

An 'Annlee' shell that is always the same, 'authors' who are always subjective? Is it possible to imagine a figure without character, what is the figure or subject we are dealing with, how does 'identity' come into being, in reality, in the cinema, in art?

The original computer file, the first version of 'Annlee', was digitally reduced by Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe to the form of an almond-eyed, empty artificial being. This was made accessible from then onwards as part of an exhibition project that has extended in time and space since 1999. "»No Ghost Just a Shell« is a long, imaginary film that an actor needed to in order to exist…" the exhibition of all the 'Annlee' projects realized takes up all the forms addressed by the project as a whole, encapsulating
ideas and spaces, time and duration: you are not just faced with one video animation after another: Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe, the 'authors' of the exhibition, have tried instead to create an exhibition complex that is again intended to give access to central aspects of the project. Both artists, in their own projects and their collaborations, are interested in creating a set of relationships and processes on the way from production via distribution to reception. Shifting perception from representations of objects to interpreting their forms and effects becomes central. It becomes possible to experience a logic of dialogue and discourse, an aesthetic that questions artistic signatures and conventional art presentation models and makes it possible to address current exhibition, authorship and narration models. So in the »No Ghost Just a Shell« exhibition as well, the artists are not just concerned with presenting the realized works, but with making it possible to experience all aspects of this project: its duration, the polyphonic voices of the artists and thus of the 'Annlee' figure, and showing the exhibition venue to be a place for producing, not for presenting images. Sound and image, content and form appear separately and yet as a 'collaborative'.