Between Good and Evil
Stefania Riccardi, Performance, 2020
The narrative around daily life in the Darlinghurst gaol with which we are familiar is characterized by convictions over pitiful larceny offences, appalling conditions, brutal corporal punishment, and public executions. Filtered by our contemporary expectations and aspirations we tend to categorise the actors of past days as inherently good or bad, perpetrators or victims.
This performative work activates the symbolic liminal space (the internal stairs landing at the then Darlinghurst Gaols’ Hospital - currently the NAS Library) in which the roles of warders and convicts switch to roles of caregivers and patients.
The work also expresses the care that human beings are capable of sharing in private moments of heightened need. The performance begins when the artist, carrying a small tray containing embroidery tools and fabric, moves from the ground floor to the first floor. On the first floor of the Library the artist sits to embroider the convicts’ tattoos as they were recorded in the “Record of marks, scars and tattoos. Darlinghurst Gaol, 1908- 1913”. The tattoos listed in this primary source tend to be mostly proclamations of love for family members, close friends, and lovers. The performance terminates when the artist returns the tray and the fabric to its location on the ground floor. The performance is repeated at various times of the day over a series of days, however it does not follow a set timetable.