Pierre Huyghe & Philippe Parreno - No Ghost Just a Shell, 2000
In 1999 two French artists Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno bought a digital avatar from a Japanese agency that develops Manga characters. For $428 the artists acquired Annlee (or Ann Lee), designed as a character with specific qualities, in an essence she was a blank slate waiting to be exercised by a narrative. As the prices of the avatars vary depending on the complexity of their characteristic traits, to own the copyright for Annlee was cheap, and she was therefore 'nondescript'.
No Ghost Just a Shell, became a project where they began to 'fill-in' the character traits of their avatar imposing various narratives for her to exist. Inviting other artists such as Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Rirkrit Tiravanija to produce animated videos using Annlee, she acquired multiple identities and multiple voices. However, after many manifestations of the avatar Huyghe and Parreno called an end to the project by transferring the characters' copyright to the 'Annlee Association'. As a legal body owned by the avatar itself the document meant that Annlee (and her image) could not be exploited ever again (unless she herself warranted it). This act granted the character simultaneous freedom and death.
"Annlee’s ambiguous status as a girl without qualities invites the viewer to project his/her own fantasies on her, yet she resists those projections by virtue of her utter lack of any captivating traits. No matter what they do to Annlee, she will never be real. Still, her vacuous image haunts you. You think of colonialism… of the co-option and exploitation of women and their images for commercial purposes… of the ephemeral, manufactured nature of fame… of the synthetic personae created for real women by the entertainment industry and what it does to their lives (Garbo, Marilyn, J.Lo…) You know her memory will live on in the discourse inspired by her for years to come. And you wonder if Annlee will become a cult figure whose legally protected image and persona will be pirated by who knows whom and for what purposes, now that she’s gone?" - Marcia Tanner, 2003