No Ghost Just a Shell (1999–2002) is a multimedia, multiauthor project initiated by Pierre Huyghe (b. 1962, Paris) and Philippe Parreno (b. 1964, Oran, Algeria), artists who came to prominence during the 1990s and whose work, alongside the work of their peers, has radically redefined the relationship of art to fixed form, cinema, and authorship. Their individual practices across ambitious participatory projects, performances, and installations rework complex narratives, frequently treating reality and fiction as indistinguishable from one another. Huyghe’s Streamside Day (2003) invents a fictional holiday for the real town of Streamside, located north of New York City, celebrating the neighborhood in a procession that reflects the nature of shared ritual. For the exhibition Dancing Around the Bride (2013), Parreno envisioned a mise-en-scène that used exhibition design and scenography to activate art history, exploring the interwoven lives and works of Marcel Duchamp and four of America’s most influential postwar artists: composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham, and visual artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
The multipart collective work, No Ghost Just a Shell, takes its name from the 1989 Japanese cyberpunk manga (animation) Ghost in the Shell, whose protagonist is a cybernetic figure with a human consciousness. Working in what artist Douglas Gordon (who wrote for the project) has described as a “promiscuity of collaboration,” Huyghe and Parreno invited thirteen artists over a three-year period to create work starring a generic virtual avatar named AnnLee. They purchased the copyright to this unpublished background character developed by Kworks, a Japanese agency that creates manga characters for commercial use. No Ghost Just a Shell positions AnnLee as the protagonist. Over the course of digressive narratives, she walks a lunar landscape, serves as the shell for the ghost of a French woman named Marie-Pierre, and discusses Earth’s alien invasion with her clone that will eventually make humanity “disappear into [their] screens.” The individual works informed the production of subsequent works, with artists creating an evolving canon for AnnLee.
The project culminated in late 2002 with fireworks cast in the shape of AnnLee’s face across the Miami Beach sky. The artists then legally transferred the ownership of AnnLee’s image to AnnLee herself creating a closed circuit of production and distribution.
No Ghost Just a Shell is jointly part of the collections of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, and Tate Modern, London. The work has been exhibited at the Kunsthalle Zürich (2002), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2002–03), and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands (2005–06). Huyghe’s work has been exhibited at the Dia Art Foundation, Chelsea, New York; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Whitechapel Gallery, London; among others. Parreno has been exhibited at many international venues, including Tate Modern, London; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; and Serpentine Galleries, London. Both artists currently live and work in Paris.