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About Between Good and Evil.

Stefania Riccardi 
Between Good and Evil, 2021

Mixed Media

While researching the tattoos that decorated the bodies of the female inmates of the Darlinghurst Gaol. Fascinating tales of private sentiments emerged.

Unlike those of their male counterparts the overwhelming majority of tattoos found on the female bodies expressed in textual form the love and yearning they had towards other human beings. Sometimes the tattoos represented anonymous romantic relationships identified only by the lover’s initials; other times the tattoos were explicit declarations of love or longing for family members.

The performance of collecting the tattoos and embroidering them on muslin cloth gives the chance for those words to be spoken and shared once again within the walls of the gaol. The long hours spent embroidering the 10m long cloth also allowed consideration of how these women would have experienced identity, worth, class, and aspirations.

The digital collages, inspired by the craft so popular in Victorian times, distance these women from the reductive and oppressive categorisation as criminals, and set them free to a world of fantasy that they themselves might have dreamt about once in a while.

Stefania Riccardi
We Are Here, 2022
Digital media

Lizzie, Kate, Charlotte: just a few of the names of the Darlinghurst inmates. Their criminal records a litany of misdemeanours – petty larceny, resistance to officers, quarrels with friends over missing items, absenteeism, intoxication. Even just appearing disorderly, suspicious, or having no means of maintaining oneself.

One can only imagine what the Annies, the Marys and the Marthas - the so-called “common pests of society”- felt emerging time and time again from the passageway connecting the courts and the gaol. Another sentence, another few weeks in the gaol.

“Would this be the last time?” “Yes, your honour.” But was it ever the last time? It is hard to comprehend how these women could possibly draw a line between what the state saw as criminal activities and the reality of living in a harsh, unruly, over-policed colony.

What did they think as they were crammed inside the narrow cells of the female block, just a few yards away from the stately quarters of the Governor and his family?

Now that all traces of the Governor’s building’s original inhabitants have been removed, it’s time to let the ghosts of past injustices take over. Time to let the Agneses, the Lillians, the Nellies roam inside the once forbidden space. Imagine if they could see themselves now, taking over the building, proclaiming from the windows “You wanted to hide us from society, but we are here now for all to see.”

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