||01. Report case research (2007)
Christiane Berndes (curator)
No Ghost Just a Shell (1999-2002)
Pierre Huyghe & Philippe Parreno
Philippe Parreno, Pierre Huyghe, M/M Paris (Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag), Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Liam Gillick, Joe Scanlan, François Curlet, Pierre Joseph & Mehdi Belhaj-Kacem, Richard Phillips, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Anna Lena Vaney, Melik Ohanian, Lili Fleury, Henri Barande, Angela Bulloch & Imke Wagener
Collection: Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
Researcher: Christiane Berndes
Since 1999, individual works from the ‘No Ghost Just a Shell’ project have turned up independently or in groups of two or three in various exhibitions throughout Europe and beyond. In September 2002, the project was exhibited for the first time in its entirety in the Kunsthalle Zürich, before travelling on to the Institute of Visual Culture in Cambridge and the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.
On 4 December 2002, Huyghe and Parreno concluded the project in Miami with a huge firework display in which AnnLee was illuminated in fire only to disappear into the darkness.
In late 2002, the entire project was bought by the Van Abbemuseum and then displayed in the exhibition ‘OVER WIJ/ABOUT WE’, which opened in January 2003. Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno came up with the staging for the presentation, choosing a robot to project large numbers of videos. The plans were drawn up by curator Phillip van den Bossche, in collaboration with the artists’ assistant, Renaud Sabari. The robot was developed for the museum by Philips CFT (hardware) and Philips design (software). A book was also published in conjunction with the project featuring a full list of works, illustrations, an interview with Huyghe and Parreno and contributions from various authors, philosophers, scientists and art historians, all of which Huyghe and Parreno now consider to be part of the project.
Since November 2003, a second version of the entire project was exhibited by collectors Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz in Miami. In March 2007, this version was presented to the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami and the Tate Modern in London. The robot was absent from this second version.
Content of the Work
Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno are interested in the development of relationships, networks and processes. It is not so much the event itself that is important to them, but rather the way in which it occurs, the social context in which the event takes place and the relationships between those involved. They have devised protocols and scenario’s full of paradox and compromise, in which the process is central and the eventual interpretation left open. ‘No Ghost Just a Shell’ is a collective project in which the figure of AnnLee infiltrates the work of various artists, authors and art historians, in different areas and in different contexts. AnnLee has multiple voices and is filled with diverse stories. Who determines her character, her identity? To what extent does her identity differ from a logo or a trademark? The project toys with concepts such as authenticity, originality and copyright in a period when the author is disappearing further and further into the background. It investigates the contrast between entertainment and art, with AnnLee starring as a symbol that shifts from one world to the other, from the field of commerce to that of a cultural community.
The museum has not only purchased a series of heterogeneous works, but also a group exhibition stage-managed by Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno. What does it mean for a museum to buy such a project? What are the possibilities of displaying these works and how do these possibilities influence their significance? How do individual works relate to the exhibition as a whole and to the context in which they are shown? What happens when the components are scattered in time and space? What happens when they occupy different spaces, such as virtual space on the internet? These were the questions underlying the research.
To start finding answers to these questions, I decided to set up the project anew but in a different format and to ask Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno for their reaction. I assumed that a concrete question for a concrete project would be the best method of arriving at a better understanding of the initiators’ vision. I developed a plan for a series of presentations that would emanate from a single point in the museum like an oil-slick, after which the works could be exhibited in different locations in the city and beyond. Using the internet as gallery space was also an option. The individual works could be displayed in ever-changing constellations and forms, at different times and in different places, in time and space. The eventual outcome was not pre-established.
I began with the development of the first ‘instalments’ and outlined my plans to Pierre and Philippe via email. They were both very busy with other projects and seemed to have little time to engage in this. Pierre Huyghe finally reacted enthusiastically to the proposal. He thought it was good idea to create a ‘domain’ for AnnLee that would be manifested as a small archipelago on which the ‘symbol’ of AnnLee would appear and disappear. This ‘domain’ could be marked by using a carpet. He was also pleased with the idea of ‘instalments’ that would develop over time, and fitted in with the basic principles of the project. ‘When we installed the project for the opening of the Van Abbemuseum we were thinking in viral terms, a déjà vu effect. An apparition and disparition of the sign as you walk through the museum’, he wrote in an email.
The first instalment opened on 9 April 2005, the second on 4 June 2005, and the third on 19 June 2005. In total, 20 works were set up, and various artists were consulted in preparation for the project, including Liam Gillick, Melik Ohanian, M/M, Anna Lena Vaney and Lily Fleury. The third instalment saw the projection of various video works by means of a robot. During the preparations, it transpired that the robot had to be reprogrammed because the dimensions of the new space were different from those of the room in which the work was shown in 2003. The software for the robot was developed by Philips, who had exclusive access to it and were the only ones capable of reprogramming the robot. These associated costs were unacceptably high however, and it also proved to be too expensive and time-consuming to reprogramme the robot so that it could be programmed independently of Philips in the future. Finally, we decided to put the robot in a fixed position rather than allow it to move throughout the room. Only two works were projected via the robot, ‘Anywhere Out of The World’ (2000) by Philippe Parreno and ‘Two Minutes Out of Time’ (2000) by Pierre Huyghe. The rest of the videos were shown using wall-mounted projectors. Between the videos, various tunes from Anna Lena Vaney’s 2002 CD, ‘A Sleep in the Deep’ were played.
Since neither Huyghe nor Parreno reacted to the alternatives for the robot, I made the decision myself and carried out the presentation without their consent, inspired by photographs of earlier set ups in Zürich and Miami.
The ‘No Ghost Just a Shell’ project develops itself within the confines of the museum. New networks and relationships are formed, new people are drawn in, new forms are found. The initiators, Huyghe and Parreno, have withdrawn, leaving the ‘maintenance’ (whatever that may mean) of the project to the museum. This process and attitude fit seamlessly into the concept of the artwork, but they leave the museum with questions about the way in which it interprets and understands its own function. Is the museum a ‘curator’ of the existent or a creative interpreter of the artwork? ‘No Ghost Just a Shell’ is a long way from losing the power to ask such questions or to set processes and collaborations in motion. The project is far from being exhausted and has by no means reached its final form. The eventual outcome is not fixed. Not by transferring the rights to AnnLee, nor through the purchase of the project by the museum. No single solution exists, only phases.