‘Machine Gaze’ by Rachel Wyatt. Image courtesy of the University of Reading School of Art.

The Reading University School of Art has opened its degree show to the public this week. The ‘Error 404’ show is an eclectic vision of the sparkling imaginations of the University’s young artists; this year’s show was more upbeat and personable than the introspective emotional torment that seemed de rigueur in previous years.

If you don’t know, http error 404 is the message an internet browser displays when it’s been asked to retrieve information it can’t find. The show’s title actually signifies the lack of a common theme, resulting in ‘a collage of stuff’ as the art students themselves put it in the programme to their show:

X? Y? Z? Strawberry? Which generation do we actually belong to?

In a scramble to locate ourselves, frantic dives into search engines… alas Error 404: not found.

While the title reflects the struggle to conjure a unifying descriptor for our year group, its contents also celebrate the the individualism and diversity seen in the school.

Even if there was no unifying theme to the show, many of the pieces were either hi-tech themselves, or explored the use, desire for, effect of and even the viewpoint of personal technology. But does this really count as a theme?

For most of these young artists, personal tech has always been with us. As Douglas Adams put it; we once thought we were terrifically smart if we had a digital watch. Sophisticated personal tech is now as ubiquitous as air, so ubiquitous, in fact, that computer error messages can now be legitimately retconned to describe the lack of a common theme in a human art show.

Of course, jamming the work of so many artists into one show where the only common factor is that the artists graduated in the same year is bound to manifest a bizarre ‘medley of works’.

This why you get the downright weird, such as Mahalia Connor’s consume, which is a room full of slowly rotating and mostly pink faux-organic material, as well as forthcoming by Jamie Ampleford, a decidedly cubic and solid set of brightly coloured blocks.

It’s why you get the videos of Max Headroom style computer-generated talking heads of Gabriella Celecia together with the eye-melting, fluorescent, strobing videos of Rachel Chesson-Cowell, the cold white minimalism of Lily Norton together with the vast jumble of odds-and-ends of Yat-Sze Tung.

It’s why the media used to create the artworks range from shadows on walls in Blaize Lynch’s intriguing screen-ache, to the slick blobby pillars of Sarah Harries’ foreign body, from Hussa AlSaif’s ountha – an internally mirrored box with a very pink video of a lounging woman in it – to Lauren Hevey’s delicate and beautiful green-and-blue tapestries.

‘Error 404’ is free to enter and is open to the public from 10am to 4pm daily until Friday 14 June, and from 11am until 6pm daily over the Whiteknights Studio Trail weekend of 15 and 16 June. It is held in building TOB1 (the 1940s prefabs) near Earley Gate, at the far eastern corner of Reading University’s Whiteknights campus. Some exhibits contain adult material, and some have strobing light effects or loud noise.

‘Art department sink and towel dispenser’ by A Nonimus

  1. Reading University Art School
  2. Whiteknights campus map
  3. Whiteknights Studio Trail