I recently took a trip down to Western-super-Mare to see the closing day of Banksy’s latest masterpiece, Dismaland. Constructed in a 10,000 sq ft disused lido, Dismaland was a pop-up exhibition that lasted for just over a month. With 58 artists submitting work, and ten new pieces from Banksy himself, the event soon became a popular attraction for the usually sleepy seaside town on the South West British coast. We soon found out for ourselves how hard it was to get tickets, even though 4,000 per day were put on sale, people on eBay were paying almost 15 times the original £3 entry fee or queuing for up to 8 hours in hope of getting a ticket on the door. I am sure that if you speak to anyone who stood in line for hours on a relatively mild September day, they will tell you it was definitely worth it.
A tongue-in-cheek art event of this scale was unprecendeted, and anyone who enjoys art that pokes fun at the corporate world or contains a deep political message in a comical way would delight at what was on offer. The sheer scale of the place was impressive and the little details are what made it feel like a real theme park with a dark twist.
It doesn’t need a genius to explain the inspiration behind the name or logo that Dismaland used. It seems it is an almost mish-mash of past and present Disneyland logos, with a distressed overlayed texture to hint towards the decaying installations that are contained inside the park. Let’s just say that the organisers (not just Banksy) went on a full assault in terms of the Disney mimicry. It will be interesting to see if any copyright lawers will be in touch.
Perhaps the most shocking and hard-hitting piece of work in the park was what you could describe as the centre piece, which was of course created by Banksy. Inside a decrepid Cinderella castle made from sheet metal and other misused objects, was a sculpture of blonde princess who seems to be dead, slumped over a pumpkin carriage drawn by dead lying horses which lay beside the crash site. The installation was in a very dark room, and could only be seen briefly every couple of seconds due to the flashing lights of papparazzi figures that were crowded around the tragic scene. You can probably guess what this refers to.
There are simply too many pieces of thoughtful, shocking and powerful works of art that I have chosen to simply show them in photographic form below. What cannot be documented in images, is what for myself was the best part of all and that is the staff who worked there. Their attititude was spot on. Unpleasant, short, and times spiteful to really ram home the message that this place was the complete opposite of Disneyland. If you work at Dismaland you don’t have to pretend to be happy or that it’s the best place on earth. Whilst I was there, I asked one of the attendants for a map. Rather than cheerfully hand me one, the young girl who was sporting a hat with Mickey Mouse ears that had been poorly taped on, instructed me to pick one up off the floor. At the sand pit, which was supposed to keep young kids entertained, the attendant would wait for a sand castle to be built by a proud child, and then completely destroy it by stamping on it. Cruel, but this is Dismaland after all. If you won a game at one of the dismal attractions dotted around the park, the Dismaland worked threw your price on the floor. This coulbe be a badge, a chip inside a plastic bag or an amusic wristband that displayed the words ‘Meaningless’ on it.
The more cynical older crowd may think ‘what a waste of money’ all of this was, and in some ways they are right. I kept wondering if Banksy would be laughing or not at the amount of people clamouring to buy official Dismaland merchandise in the store via the gift shop (through the exit of course). The programme does include some interesting process sketches so you can see how the Bemusement Park became a reality. As an added bonus, it seems that Dismaland is to be dismanatled and put towards a good cause.