Typewriter film ribbon, wire, nails. Dimensions vary; installed here: 300 x 60″. Collection Museo Alejandro Otero, Caracas.
About forty strips of typewriter film ribbon are stretched between nails just off the wall. Placed at varying distances from one another, they form parallel horizontal lines of different lengths. The strips bear the text of so-called Gaol deliveries (court sessions) from Bristol, dating 1741-1798. Each strip lists one Gaol delivery: date of the delivery session, name(s) of the convicted and sentence received—either death sentence or, as in most cases, a commuted sentence from death to transportation to colonies in America. The sentences are fairly uniform in their wording, only the names of the convicted change.
These distinct yet standardized court sentences don’t provide any access to the individuals concerned. But they exemplify the convergence of personal and collective or “official” history.
Monday 5 April 1773 – City of Bristol and County of the same City – Ann Mills Wife of John Mills, John Davos otherwise Carroll. Convicted of Grand Larceny. Let them be severally transported to some or one of his Majesty’s Plantations or Colonies for the Term of Seven Years.
Tuesday 3 September 1745 – City of Bristol and County of the same City – Dorothy Vile, Elizabeth Symes, Ann Carrill. His Majesty’s Pleasure to pardon them on Condition of Transportation for Fourteen Years being Signified to this Court and they severally craving the benefit thereof. Let them be Transported accordingly.