Installation Diary

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The installation CAtArINa's Dictionary was presented in “la compagnie, lieu de creation” in Marseille between 29 November 2018 and February 9, 2019 as part of the exhibition Encore with Photographer Valerie Horwitz. Over 7 weeks there were 700 visitors.




After receiving awards for CNC and Mécènes du Sud I travelled to Princeton for the first time to meet João Biehl, professor of Anthropology at Princeton and explore the archive of Catarina Inês G. Moraes he was entrusted with. I spent 4 days (13-17 Nov 2017) in Princeton and a further 5 days in NYC researching. I was astounded by the size of the archive. In the limited time I had access to it, I was only able to partly document some of the hundreds of pages of the 19 notebooks and to record some of the many hours of field recordings and interviews with Catarina in Portuguese that João Biehl made available. They were initially recorded on a dictaphone, and the combination of her deteriorating health and poor quality of the recording makes comprehension difficult. Unfortunately, due to schedule changes, the interview with João Biehl could not take place as planned. However, he arranged a meeting with Andrea de Castro Melloni, a Brazilian Portuguese lecturer at Princeton, whom I recorded as she read random excerpts from the notebooks.



On my return to Marseille I was asked to present my project to Mécènes du Sud along with the other laureates. As I began to review the material I had shot in Princeton I was overwhelmed by Andrea de Castro Melloni’s readings. They made it clear to me that the voice, the sound of Catarina’s language had to take a central role in anything I would produce. I decided to include them in a draft video installation for the Mécènes du Sud Project presentation. As I combined them with new recordings of the notebooks and older material of Elsa reading french translations, it became clear the project needed to be thought over. The sound, the song, of Catarina’s language was clearly a vital, structural element:

“… he [Gary Hurst] went out of his mind when he started to touch, physically, the Dictionary and he had a Brazilian read and something magical happened, SOUND, the sound of Catarina’s words, something that I had not paid attention to, I was concerned with finding literality there and connections and by having Andrea read the words in Portuguese a whole new sensorial dimension of her (Catarina) writing emerged that I had not known, or partaken in.”  -João Biehl

The project took on a new shape and was redrafted into 3 videos, played on separate computer monitors, the wall of research drawings, collages, texts and a monitor playing the video “Timed.” At the Mécènes du Sud presentation over 150 people viewed my project and the reactions were positive.



After the presentation it was transparent that the planned installation and performance would need more research, both conceptually and technologically. It would also require more time in Princeton to explore, transcribe and translate the notebooks. This is a huge undertaking, but necessary to create the living/interactive archive. After repeated requests João Biehl organised the scanning of the notebooks in late 2018. Funding is being sought to transcribe and translate the scanned texts.

Circumstantial delays in the translation process led me to focusing on the power of the notebooks’ original voice:  rather than translate the partially documented notebooks from my first visit to Princeton, I decided to follow the “sound,” an experiment in order to focus on the cadence of Catarina’s language. Conceição Coelho Ferreira & Nicolas Larue transcribe and translate directly from audio recordings of Andrea de Castro Melloni’s selected readings of Catarina’s notebooks. 

From these transcriptions and translations I designed and hand-printed small books on thin paper with awkward varying layouts to reflect the chaotic layouts of the original notebooks. This impacts the reading experience, bringing readers to focus, slow down and take in the haptic quality of Catarina’s Notebooks.

In March (12-16 March 2018) I returned to Princeton to research and further document the archive. During this visit I was invited to present the project to João Biehl’s students in Medical anthropology and at a salon for ethnography where Princeton doctoral students watched and discuss visual works. For this I reedited a single screen version of the Mécènes du Sud triptych. Again João Biehl was unable to commit to interview. However, a Brazilian post-doctorate scholar, Arbel Griner, agreed to read for me. Whilst reading from the notebooks she commented on the syntax, content and structure of Catarina’s language. This reading became part of a new diptych – Reading Catarina— which was also presented at La Compagnie.

After my second visit to Princeton I found five readers, all women, including Elsa Hourcade and four others from Marseille, ranging in age from 37 – approximately the age Catarina was when she died to 50, the age she would be now had she survived. Each read in French from the books I made, selecting and reading, as Andrea had done, what they wished to, without my mediation.



The triptych CAtAriNa's Dictionary – Six Voix, consists of three Full HD projections (1h 23mins) onto 1,674 x 2,976m screens leaning against the walls in a flexible arrangement. One has Andrea reading from the original notebooks in Portuguese. The second has the five women reading in French from small handmade booklets – these two are synchronised using a Raspberry computer and switch connected to two media players. The third player/screen is not synced; the video is longer than the other two, thus creating a random, varied composition within the installation over time. 





The videos contain scenes of my hands leafing through some of Catarina’s books; photographs of quotes in my copy of Vita and João Biehl’s dictaphone playing recordings of Catarina and João Biehl’s conversations which disrupt the sound of the readers on the other screens. Each screen has a corresponding mono audio monitor.

In Arbel & Valentine Arbel reads from the original texts and comments in English on one screen. On another screen, Valentine, a French translator, watches the video of Arbel reading on an iPad and translates the English into French. The screens are synchronised on 2 players. 


A third element of the installation consists of a wall of notes, quotes, images, drawings and collages relevant to the research, all related to the English translations of Catarina’s texts from Vita.


A fourth element of the installation is a video called Timed, presented on a monitor lying flat on the floor like a well of images, reflecting the wall of images behind. Still photographs of the wall in its second 2014 incarnation are set in tempo to the clock-like sound of the museum hygrothermograph.




  • July 2019 - summer workshop based on Catarina’s Dictionary with Ana Gómez-Carrillo de Castro, Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal 
  • Develop English version 
  • Princeton - research and workshops with undergraduates



Participants and Contributors

Catarina Inês G. Moraes


João Biehl is Susan Dod Brown Professor of Anthropology and Woodrow Wilson School Faculty Associate at Princeton University. He is also the Co-Director of Princeton’s Program in Global Health and Health Policy. Author of Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment (University of California Press)


Portuguese: Andréa de Castro Melloni Lecture Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Princeton University; Arbel Griner, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Fundação Getulio Vargas), The School of Social Sciences, Department Member. 

French: Elsa Hourcade; Nolwenn Moreau; Doriane Sovilhol; Valerie Horwitz; Sandra Ach

Translation:  Conceição Coelho Ferreira, Université Lumiere Lyon, Département des Langues Romanes; Nicolas Larue

Live interpretation: Valentine Lyes


Paul-Emmanuel Odin est programmateur du lieu de création La compagnie à Marseille. Docteur en cinéma (Paris 3-La Sorbonne Nouvelle). Membre de l'IKT (association internationale des curators). Co-président de Marseille expos. Il enseigne la théorie de l'image contemporaine à l'école supérieure d'art d'Aix-en-Provence et est l’auteur de L'absence de livre [Gary Hill et Maurice Blanchot — ecriture, vidéo]