Le retour des objets, quasi objets et super-objets (The return of objects, quasi objects and super objects)

Filipe Pais
Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian

Le retour des objets

A chair drops and kills a dictator. Windows, doors and other daily life objects mysteriously disappear. These are the themes of two short stories published in 1978 by José Saramago in Quasi Objets, one of his lesser known works. In his book, José Saramago introduces ordinary objects that come to life and free themselves from their function. These quasi objects are endowed with consciousness and intentionality. They can act on the world, emancipate from an anthropocentric existence and even take revenge on a confident master. What happens to the OUMIS (objects, utensils, machines or installations) in Quasi Objets? Why did they leave? Where did they go? Saramago does not provide us with final answers to these questions. One thing is for sure: the story must be continued… Which is the aim of the first conference of this cycle. At the intersection of art, philosophy and design, this conference invites us to reflect on the notion of Quasi Objects and its influence on Michel Serres and Bruno Latour’s works and to imagine another type of object: the Super Object.

Behavioral Objects I — Céleste Boursier-Mougenot: A Case Study
Samuel Bianchini, Emanuele Quinz, eds.

Sternberg Press
Copublished with École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs – Paris PSL Research University




Contributions by Samuel Bianchini, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Jaime DeSimone, Jean-Paul Laumond, Florent Levillain, Emanuele Quinz, Bénédicte Ramade, Trevor Smith, Elisabetta Zibetti

Three grand pianos slowly make their way through the large exhibition space allotted to them, sometimes bumping into one another. These animate objects, which constitute offroad (2014), a work by the artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, appear to be living beings, each with its own behavior. They are perfect examples of behavioral objects, whose little-known history dates back to the avant-garde and the emergence of cybernetics.

What exactly is a behavioral object? How can it be analyzed, understood, theorized, experienced, and how can we conceive of works that possess the faculty of action and reaction to their environment and public? Examining three works by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, this book tackles these questions and defines a new field of research and practice.

Strange Design — From Objects to Behaviors

Jehanne Dautrey & Emanuele QuinZ
Graphic design by Clément Le Tulle-Neyret


In recent years, strange—ambiguous, dysfunctional, enigmatic, and complicated—objects have emerged in the world of design. These objects are based on an approach that has been called anti-design, radical, conceptual, or critical design—a speculative design that instead of offering solutions raises questions. Design that is not subject to the imperatives of the power structures of society, but is instead critical. Via a strategy of modifying objects away from their usual forms and utilitarian functions, this design evokes unusual uses and behaviors, in turn opening the way to a more profound questioning of social and political values.

With the contributions of Gijs Bakker, Jurgen Bey, Pieke Bergmans, Bless, Jan Boelen, Elio Caccavale, Florence Doléac, Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby, Didier Faustino, Catherine Geel, Ugo La Pietra, Mathieu Lehanneur, Luca Marchetti, Alessandro Mendini, Gianni Pettena, Stijn Ruys, and Noam Toran.

With the support of the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and the École Nationale Supérieure d’Art et de Design in Nancy, as well as the “Scènes du Monde, Création, Savoirs Critiques” Université Paris 8 Research Unit (EA 1573).


• St-Onge, D., Levillain, F., Zibetti, E., & Beltrame, G. (2019). Collective expression: How robotic swarms convey information with group motion. Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics, 10, 418-435.

• Levillain, F., St-Onge, D., Beltrame, G. & Zibetti, E. (2020). Towards situational awareness from robotic group motion. In Proceedings of the 28th International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN), Delhi, India, October 14-18, 2019.

• Levillain, F., & Lepart, S. (2019). Looking for the minimal qualities of expressive movement in a non-humanlike robot. AISB 2019 Symposium on Movement that Shapes Behaviour, Falmouth, UK, April 18.

• Levillain, F., St-Onge, D., Zibetti, E., & Beltrame, G. (2018). More than the sum of its parts: Assessing the coherence and expressivity of a robotic swarm. In Proceedings of the 27th International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN), Nanjing, China, August 27-31, 2018.

• Bianchini, Samuel, Florent Levillain, Armando Meniccaci, Emanuele Quinz, and Elisabetta Zibetti. “Towards Behavioral Objects: A Twofold Approach for a System of Notation to Design and Implement Behaviors in Non-anthropomorphic Robotic Artifacts.” In Dance Notations and Robot Motion, edited by Naoko Abe and Jean-Paul Laumond, 1–24. Berlin: Springer International Publishing, Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics series, 2016.

• Bianchini, Samuel. “Towards Organogenesis: For an Instrumental Approach in Research in Art.” Media-N, Research-Creation: Explorations 11 no. 3 (Winter 2015) pp. 22–31.

• Bianchini, Samuel, Rémy Bourganel, Emanuele Quinz, Florent Levillain and Élisabetta Zibetti. “(Mis)behavioral Objects, Empowerment of Users vs. Empowerment of Objects.” In Empowering Users Through Design, Interdisciplinary Studies and Combined Approaches for Technological Products and Services, edited by David Bihanic, 129–52. Berlin: Springer International Publishing, 2015.

• Grimaud, Emmanuel, “Les robots oscillent entre vivant et inerte.” Multitudes, no. 58 (Spring 2015): 48–58.

• Levillain, Florent, Sébastien Lefort and Elisabetta Zibetti. “Moving on Its Own: How Do Audiences Interact with an Autonomous Moving Artwork.” In CHI ’15 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Seoul, Republic of Korea, April 18–23, 2015: 695–702. New York: ACM.

• Bianchini, Samuel, Rémy Bourganel, Jean-Baptiste Labrune, Hiroshi Ishii, Emmanuel Mahé and Emanuele Quinz, “The Misbehavior of Animated Objects.” In TEI ‘14 Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction, Munich, Germany: February 16–19, 2014. New York: ACM: doi>10.1145/2540930.2567899.