In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Narrativity of Post-Convergent Media:No Ghost Just a Shell and Rirkrit Tiravanija's "(ghost reader C.H.)"
  • Amy J. Elias (bio)

While comics today have entered the world of what used to be called Western "high art," manga—Japanese comics strongly associated with fan culture and genre—less publically breaks through into Anglo-European academic or institutional space.1 Yet in 1999, French artists Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno turned to manga as the starting point for an international art project. For 46,000 yen (by 2010 conversion standards, about $500),2 Huyghe and Parreno say they bought the copyright of a manga character without a name or biography, drawn as a two-dimensional image, from a catalog of the Japanese agency K-works, which develops fictional characters for the manga market (see figure 1). This practice of buying manga "blank characters" is apparently common, and the artists have stated that they purchased this character instead of, say, a Disney character because of this copyright flexibility. Huyghe and Parreno modeled the character in 3-D, giving it movement and voice and transforming it from a static two-dimensional image of a sad waif into a three-dimensional video character. The shift in appearance was significant: the artists' 3D rendering kept to the overall conventions of manga character drawing (overly large eyes, tiny pointed nose, small mouth, big hair) and to some of the specifics of the purchased image (purple hair, pointed ears, grayish skin); however, they elongated her face and washed out (and rotated the angle of) her eyes, and the resulting figure recalls pop culture pictures of grey-men aliens as much as it does a manga character (see figure 2).3

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Fig 1.

Image purchased from K-Works by Huyghe and Parreno. Used with permission.

Huyghe and Parreno called the other-worldly female image "Annlee" and created a narrative in which Annlee is "freed" from commercial servitude. They then made two very short films in which Annlee speaks directly to the viewing audience about her market identity as a purchased [End Page 182] image, an art image, and a projection of femaleness.4 The peculiar twist is that Annlee is now also the owner of her/its own copyright: Huyghe and Parreno asked lawyer Luc Saucier to draw up a legal contract that created a company essentially giving Annlee ownership of itself. With the contract of incorporation, Annlee was "freed from the realm of representation" as a visual sign, though that sign could be used in verbal narratives such as novels. For the next ten years, Huyghe and Parreno invited world-renowned visual and literary artists to collaborate on the project, adding their own interpretations of Annlee's story with no fixed medium or story constraints. Titled No Ghost Just a Shell, the collaborative, museum-based project eventually included pieces by nearly 30 artists and writers commissioned between 1999 and 2002. No Ghost Just a Shell rotates these works in individual shows at major museums around the world, and Annlee has now appeared in work by some of the most prominent contemporary artists today, in printmaking, video, song, sculpture, wallpaper, mixed media, and painting.5 For example, the artist Liam Gillick has done a multimedia aluminum structure ("Annlee you proposes," 2001) featuring Annlee speaking as a cyber-goth character surrounded by flashing electric lightning; the fiction writer Kathryn Davis has produced a epistolary meditation from the point of view of Annlee ("Annlee Darling," 2002) that explores the possibility creating the biography of a sign; and Angela Bulloch and Imke Wagener have constructed beautifully molded, white polystyrol styrofoam sculptural "toys" of various sizes and amorphous shapes for Annlee ("Annlee KonnektiKit, Lunaphon," 2002).

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Fig 2.

Pierre Huyghe, Annlee image from video "Two Minutes Out of Time." Used with permission.

Annlee thus is a character/sign that precedes, inhabits, and succeeds story. It precedes story in that it exists as a manga image before being purchased by Huyghe and Parreno; it inhabits the story that they and others create after its purchase; and it succeeds story because after it is given its own copyright rights...


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pp. 182-202
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