Art in Reading: CRASH! presents A Better Britain II

Claire Slobodian

A Better Britain II: Britlins | Until 15 July

Artist duo Scott King and Matthew Worley have worked under the collective name of CRASH! (Creating Resistance to Society’s Haemorrhoids! Yep.) since the ’90s. In A Better Britain II: Britlins, they present a template for a whole new society. It’s a wry and witty art show looking at nostalgia, gentrification, class and the desire for a utopian Britain.

Described as, ‘the vision of a select group of maverick MPs, who want to turn back the clock on Broken Britain and restore it to the magical days of their youth,’ the work takes the form of a printed manifesto.

First the Britlins Conglomerate present a series of essays and bold, graphic print posters breaking down why modern Britain is failing. Then comes the solution: a series of New Towns inspired by slow, safe and regimented 1970s holiday camp life. ‘Perhaps the only way to go forward, is to go back?’, it poses.

One Bad Apple: A Better Britain
‘One Bad Apple’: part of CRASH! presents A Better Britain II

Peppered with memories of glory days at Butlins Minehead and face-palm-worthy new highway code rules (Lady drivers 40mph. Gentlemen drivers 80mph), A Better Britain II is amusing and thought-provoking. It feels particularly apt right now.

The venue for the show, Thames Tower, is also an interesting choice. The newly gleaming, but 1970s-built, office block revamps a piece of Reading’s past for our modern life. Aiming to change the work-life balance for their staff (there are luxury showers in the bathrooms and a relaxing sky garden bar on the 14th floor), the tower is itself tipping a nod towards some elements of the Britlins vision.

The pages from the colourful manifesto are also blown up to poster size and pinned to one inner wall of the bare office. So while viewing them you face backwards, unable to take in the impressive view over modern Reading while contemplating how our society has, or hasn’t, failed.

It’s a short work, but an enjoyable one. And if you’re sold on the Britlins way of life, you can pick up a copy of the bound manifesto to take home for £10.

On our visit we had a bit of confusion with the tower reception team, and the building’s very futuristic lifts (there are no buttons in there!). Make sure the team know you are after the tenth floor art show when you pop in.

It’s also worth noting that Reading:International are behind this exhibition. They are a new contemporary visual arts organisation led by the Department of Art at the University of Reading.

After noticing that a large proportion of art graduates were leaving Reading, the art department founded Reading:International with funding from Arts Council England. Their aim is to ‘give local artists and curators a platform to make new work, in response to the unique social and historical context of Reading and wider Berkshire’.

In practice, that means they’re working to build an environment where art can flourish in Reading. Seeking venues to host shows from local artists, bringing national names to our town and engaging with local schools. Better Britain II is a strong example of that. We’ll be keeping an eye out for more exciting projects in 2017.

Event details

A Better Britain II: Britlins

Until 15 July | Friday-Sunday, 12pm-6pm | 10th Floor, Thames Tower | Free

Want more culture?

Check out our guide to the Reading Fringe Festival, also on in July.

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