Pierre Huyghe & Philippe Parreno
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 …” (Parreno) 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.