The Narrativity of Post-Convergent Media: No Ghost Just a Shell and Rirkrit Tiravanija’s “(ghost reader C.H.)”


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. 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), 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).

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