A few weekends ago, I was making a trip back to my hometown of Weston-super-Mare. The day before I arrived, Banksy had unveiled a new exhibition/theme park called Dismaland. Situated on the seafront in an abandoned outdoor swimming pool – known fondly by locals as the Tropicana – this “Bemusement Park” is self-described as the UK’s worst new attraction and is filled with dark humour, political satire and artistic representations of some of humanity’s current guilty sins. It’s a perfect view of what’s currently wrong within today’s society and popular culture.
I went along to Dismaland on the opening weekend and put together this video of the whole event; take a look at it below and then carry on reading for more thoughts and photos from Dismaland.
The fact it’s located inside a closed public lido, once a thriving venue of the British seaside, but now an abandoned eyesore on the seafront, emphasises the entire point and cynicism of Dismaland. From the entrance, mocking the nanny state of health and safety and big brother watchdogs, to the inequalities in wealth and class divides. Dismaland really attacks the current state of our nation hard, in a powerful, humorous and intelligent way.
There are installations from over 50 different artists; each with their own agenda to world crises, and a shared vision of mockery and a hunger to raise awareness. There are a few fair ground style attractions throughout Dismaland. “Hook a duck from the muck” is a game in response to large oil spills and environmental damage, inviting people to hook ducks from oil polluted waters. Another such game is “Mini gulf”, a small putting course, with holes running through oil barrels and petrol containers in a litter strewn desert.
You can even take a ride on a carousel, complete with a butcher and boxes of lasagne, reminiscent of the European horse meat scandal from a couple of years ago.
One of the more controversial installations due to current world events is the miniature boats filled with refugees in the water at the white cliffs of Dover. Of course the sad underlying reality of this installation is that no matter how much you drive the boats around, there is nowhere for them to go.
Each installation is initially entertaining, with a subdued message that I was surprised to see go above many people’s awareness. I guess, a point proven why these sorts of events are always successful.
Possibly my favourite piece in Dismaland, was the miniature model city showing scenes in the aftermath of what appears to be mass rioting. The detail and scale of the whole piece was fascinating and very representative of current political affairs and an uprising to governments.
I was however very surprised to see people completely miss the point of the Cinderella carriage crash inside the park’s castle. It’s not a stab at Disney. It’s showing how the media is so intrusive to the point that it can actually lead to people dying. In this case, the tragedy of Princess Diana’s death visualised with Cinderella and the paparazzi. I honestly can’t believe how many people I overheard who didn’t get this reference.
The whole theme park is essentially a showcase of huge political statements with underlying tones of anti-consumerism – everything that Banksy’s art is so well known for. I highly recommend visiting if you’re in the area. It’s not quite the most disappointing bemusement park you can buy a ticket for.
Dismaland is only open until September 27th in Weston-super-Mare, so get there quick if you want to see it!
Let me know in the comments below what you think of Dismaland if you’re planning to go or if you’ve already been!
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