Life in the United Kingdom, otherwise known as the citizenship test, hasn’t been with us long. Introduced in 2005, it has a reputation among both natives and non-natives for its bizarre, irrelevant and difficult questions. I first got introduced to the list at the barbers, when the Turkish and Polish staff peppered me with sample questions which, in the run-up to Brexit, they were all boning up on - and I found myself flummoxed by several of them.
That said, now I’ve finally taken the citizenship test, I feel a bit better about my British bona fides: I scored 20 out of 24, buoyed by some logical guesswork. I hadn’t known at the barbers that the test was multiple choice! The occasion for taking the test was totally low stakes: it was part of an art show from Tania Brughera , which features a classroom setup in which visitors are given copies of the test, and the opportunity to mark their attempt against an answer sheet.
Is the thought behind the show to inspire us to relate more to the immigrant experience? Maybe that’s problematic, as immigrants will also attend. (My companion at the show, from Colombia, also took the test and scored the passing grade of 18.) Or maybe it’s just generally to promote understanding between cultures, which is a pretty wishy-washy foundation for an art show - but is nevertheless deeply needed in this divided island.
The exhibition also features cooking classes - dumplings - and instructions for making a magic wand. It’s totally free to enter. Did I enjoy the show, or did I enjoy taking the test? A bit of both.
Tania Brughera: School of Integration is at Manchester Art Gallery (Manchester). July 5 - September 1 2019