Miss Shaw Dreams

Miss Shaw Dreams (thumbnail), photo Yatzek

Miss Shaw would not describe herself as a collector. However, she is fond of gardening books. Looking about her ground-floor flat, it appears that most of the books she owns are illustrated volumes on flower gardens, and window-gardening. In these, the passage of time is always benevolent. And change is always anticipated, gratifying.

The books commonly refer to ‘white or blue’ agapanthus flowers.

Of course Miss Shaw has no argument with ‘white’, but privately she holds that the ‘blue’ are more precisely a mauve: closer to the pale-purple wash of hydrangeas. Sometimes bright like the purple salvia.

At home Miss Shaw might spend long hours leafing through her gardening books, poring over their thickish pages, their sober diagrams, sketches, advice. It is true that these hours are hardly matched by the time she spends crouching over her own plantings outside, beside the fence. …

Through December 2002, a residency shared with filmmaker Louise Curham saw the creation of Miss Shaw Dreams in a variety of guises: as an installation of Super-8 film projections on soft sculptures; as a desk floating in a stairwell; as a reading of texts ‘in character’; later, as a Super-8 film accompanied by taped narration, and as a limited edition of the artist’s book subtitled ‘A Story by Implication’ (see here below). Miss Shaw Dreams began as Clatter, the fourth in a series of Six Conjecural Modules based at the Tower Studio, part of Queen’s College, The University of Melbourne. Premised on collaboration and the idea of the ‘open exhibition’, these Modules were coordinated by Sandra Bridie.

Miss Shaw Dreams was informed by documents in the Queen’s College archives—historical materials about traditions surrounding Initiation Week, potentially disturbing rites of passage for young ‘freshers’ joining the college community. It was also inspired by the Tower Studio’s location opposite the Melbourne General Cemetery. Through the fictional character of Miss Miranda Shaw, Secretary to the Master of the College, the project became an investigation into fear and bewilderment, memory, and fantasies of escape, layered into text fragments and Curham’s luminous hand-processed film loops.

Performance History

11 November: (screening of Louise Curham’s Miss Shaw, 6 minute Super-8 film) Melbourne, Cinema Nova, part of a program presented by Moving Image Coalition
4 January: (12 hour open studio and ambient performance) Melbourne, Tower Studio at Queen’s College, The University of Melbourne
4—20 December: (residency) Melbourne, Tower Studio at Queen’s College, The University of Melbourne

Artist's Book

[click on the image to read Miss Shaw Dreams in full]

Miss Shaw Dreams: A Story by Implication, limited edition pages 3–4
Miss Shaw Dreams: A Story by Implication, limited edition pages 3–4

Further Reading

Gough, Deborah, ‘Public Art: A Towerist Attraction’, The Age, 19 January 2003; read here