An attempt to take it all away
The process of making work is like a large-scale act of reverse engineering, attempting to unpack aspects of social life and especially values. An example of this was the work Transfer, made in response to Manchester Royal infirmary. After weeks of wondering what she should ‘contribute’, Shaw realised that the art works that were already there (three hundred plus works) were invisible and needed to be understood, so she proposed to take the work away – a very simple act following weeks of agonising. In an attempt to question whether art in healthcare was closer to ‘life’ (as in Allan Kaprow’s Blurring of Art and Life) she proposed to move all the art and put it in Castlefield Gallery.
This act involved weeks of negotiation with staff and management, only to conclude that no-one could give her permission as the works lay outside anyone’s jurisdiction. Later on in the project some works were impossible to remove as either the hospital infrastructure had been built around them, or the staff refused her request. When her attempt to ‘take it all away’ was thwarted, she had to decide whether this meant the project failed, or was, rather, the point where it worked – allowing the conflict between concept and reality to be made tangible.