»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.
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 Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno 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 not so much interested in the final artistic product as 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 that Parreno sees as an « aesthetic of alliances », 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’.
[text taken from the kunsthalle zurich press release]