Curator's Choice: Dystopian Manga in Pierre Huyghe's One Million Kingdoms at Tate Liverpool

| 07 August 2015

Curator’s Choice: Mike Pinnington, Content Editor at Tate Liverpool, on Pierre Huyghe’s One Million Kingdoms

A photo of a glowing Manga character at Tate Liverpool, from Pierre Huyghe’s One Million Kingdoms – part of the new collection display, DLA Piper Series: Constellations
© Tate Liverpool, Laura Deveney
“When I was in my teens I had a subscription to a magazine that championed Japanese pop culture; it introduced me to the edgy and frequently beautifully rendered worlds of Anime and Manga – Japanese animation and comic books.

I was hooked in particular by the style of illustration used to bring the characters that populated these stories to life – all cool, angular hair and androgynous features. Years later I’m still a sucker for films by the likes of Studio Ghibli, the producer of contemporary classics such as Spirited Away, Ponyo, and The Wind Rises.

It’s fascinating to see how something that was once so niche has become ‘just’ another way for western audiences to consume animated film. Despite its adoption by the mainstream, however, I don’t think I ever envisaged seeing anything inspired by this medium exhibited at Tate Liverpool.

Enter Pierre Huyghe’s One Million Kingdoms, made in 2001. One ‘chapter’ of No Ghost Just a Shell, a collaborative project initiated by Huyghe and his fellow artist, Philippe Parreno, its overarching title owes a debt to the 1995 dystopian neo-noir Ghost in the Shell.

It’s fitting that this particular iteration of the experiment was realised in 2001 – its chronology putting the work in direct narrative correspondence with the masterful Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In the context of the work’s setting at Tate Liverpool – juxtaposed with Richard Hamilton’s JFK-featuring Towards a definitive statement on the coming trends in menswear and accessories (a) Together let us explore the stars, from 1962, it becomes especially apt in light of Kennedy’s exhortation the same year that ‘we choose to go to the moon.’

Central to One Million Kingdoms is Annlee, an ostensibly unremarkable Manga character that Huyghe and Parreno bought the rights to. The character was made available for subsequent use to other artists.

She is perfectly cast, a vessel for exploring the narratives of the different authors who have her at their disposal: ‘just a shell’, belatedly imbued with a life, a personality and purpose – however prone to change that purpose may be.

I experienced a protective response to Annlee as she explored the desolate and undulating lunar landscape alone; the terrain changing according to the tone of her voice, an uncanny digital synthesis of the voice of astronaut Neil Armstrong combined with passages from Jules Verne’s 1864 novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Intriguingly, our heroine’s first steps in One Million Kingdoms are accompanied with the words ‘it’s a lie.’ Three words which conjure, once again, Stanley Kubrick – a director who so skilfully and convincingly brought space travel to life in his 1968 opus that even today rumours persist among some that he was party to faking the following year’s moon landing on a Hollywood backlot.

What does it all mean? On one level it drags the Duchampian idea of the readymade into the 21st century and asks questions of ownership, both literal and intellectual. For Huyghe it demonstrates the increasingly fine lines between reality and fiction, an exploration of parallel universes perhaps – or, as he has said, the ‘many different present moments possible’.

For others - myself for instance - it’s an opportunity to see Anime in a fine art setting, amid myriad works expanding elements and ways of thinking emerging from Richard Hamilton’s constellation.  

DLA Piper Series: Constellations groups together major works from the Tate collection to encourage the exploration of connections between them. At the heart of each grouping is a ‘trigger’ work that has been selected to originate a variety of correspondences with modern and contemporary art.

Huyghe’s One Million Kingdoms 2001 forms part of the Richard Hamilton constellation.”

  • DLA Piper Series: Constellations is at Tate Liverpool until summer 2016.

More pictures from the exhibition

A photo of a silver square artwork as part of the DLA Piper Series: Constellations exhibition at Tate Liverpool
© Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek
A photo of a nude sculpture in front of lots of colourful textiles as part of the DLA Piper Series: Constellations exhibition at Tate Liverpool
© Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek
A photo of a piece of pink artwork and wires on a wall as part of the DLA Piper Series: Constellations exhibition at Tate Liverpool
© Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek
A photo of a wooden sculpture hanging from a gallery ceiling as part of the DLA Piper Series: Constellations exhibition at Tate Liverpool
© Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek
A photo of a woman looking at framed artworks on a gallery wall as part of the DLA Piper Series: Constellations exhibition at Tate Liverpool
© Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek
A photo of lots of small metal irons in a gallery display case as part of the DLA Piper Series: Constellations exhibition at Tate Liverpool
© Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek
Three galleries to see great modern art in

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
An outstanding collection of international post-war work and the most important and extensive collection of modern Scottish art. The post-war collection features art by Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Andy Warhol and Lucian Freud, with more recent works by artists including Antony Gormley, Gilbert & George, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
mima opened to international critical acclaim in January 2007, and is now renowned for hosting temporary exhibitions of fine art and craft from 1900 to the present and showcasing work by internationally respected artists.


Current exhibition Modern Art in Britain: Reality Questioned aims to show how painters such as Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, David Bomberg and Eric Ravilious experimented with primitivism, illusion, visual puns and abstraction.
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