Jean-Robert Dantou and Florence Weber

Objects and constraints


Composite, “Objects and constraints”, France, 2014 © Jean-Robert Dantou / ENS – CNSA / Agence VU’

A bent toothbrush, a pipe, a trashbag, an engagement ring, perfume bottles… A photographer and social scientists sought out objects that focus on decision-making for people described as suffering from mental illness.

How can a decision be made when the person in question is described as being incapable of deciding for themselves ? How can their perspective, and that of their friends and family, be taken into consideration? How can it not be taken into consideration? In each case, the dangers the person faces, as well as the dangers they put others in, have to be weighed up against jeopardizing their freedom.

The perception of these dangers makes a difference. What are acceptable risks, unacceptable ones, and for whom ? Each decision brings into play a combination of experiences, knowledge, perceptions and norms. These “marker objects” beckon, signal, allow stories to be told that are intertwined with the lives of those that suffer, those that care for them, those that love them and live with the uncertainty.


Jean-Robert Dantou: French. Born in 1980, living in Paris. His work led to several exhibitions and to a number of publications on subjects like contemporary China (« Ombres Chinoises », ed. Atlantica 2004), the french cooperative sector (« Ceux qui aiment les lundis », ed. Le Chêne 2012), or the french small and middle-sized companies (« Mon entreprise prend la pose », ed. Democratic Books 2010). He divides his time between french institutional commissions and artist residencies. Artist-in-residence at the École Normale Supérieure of Paris since 2012, he collaborates with an interdisciplinary social sciences research team.

Florence Weber: Professor of Social Anthropology and Sociology at the Ecole normale supérieure, Paris (Centre Maurice Halbwachs), she published a dozen of books and more than 100 scientific articles, mostly on ethnography, the history of social sciences, kin theory, household and informal economy, Alzheimer’s care-work. Since 2011, she directs a project on mental health, social disqualification and disability in France, devoted to psychiatric patients’ biographies: their everyday life outside of the hospital, their social and civic rights, their relations with healthcare-workers, other paid care-workers and informal caregivers.

Research: Florence Weber, social anthropologist (Ecole normale supérieure Paris, Centre Maurice Halbwachs), with Solène Billaud, Pauline Blum, Julien Bourdais, Baptiste Brossard, Gaëlle Giordano, Hervé Heinry, Julie Minoc, Samuel Neuberg, William Vega, Jingyue Xing