Dismaland: The temporary art project set up by the street artist Banksy in an abandoned lido in the quietly rotting seaside town of Weston Super Mare. Banksy writes in his opening welcome: ‘Bertolt Brecht once said ‘Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it’. Which is fine, but what if you’re in a hall of mirrors and the giant hammer is made of foam? This is the question raised by Dismaland Bemusement Park’.
And so it begins…
Birthed from the detritus of Disney, with bored attendants, patches of weeds and artistic despair, this decaying edifice to humanity is set on a 2.5 acre site with works from more than 50 artists from 17 different countries. It’s an instagramer’s delight, a visual sensation and a walk on the whacky, dark, black side.
A play on double standards starts immediately, from the genuine bag search on the street (anarchy has it’s place, no spray cans allowed here) to the fabricated threat of Bill Barminksi’s cardboard screening room. What’s real and what isn’t?
Inside it’s hard to know where to look first..the children slide riot van?
The sadistic carousel? Tesco would be so pleased..
Or the Big Rig jig, defying explanation or gravity.
There are traditional stalls – each with their own unique twist.
Knock the anvil over – with a ping pong ball and yay! you win the anvil! Hit the anvil and you win a red bracelet that reads ‘this is a meaningless bracelet’. Didn’t stop me wanting one. And then you ask yourself why even attempt the futile? Except we did. And failed.
Or maybe hooking a duck from the muck has a greater chance of success – except the punters have run off with all the ducks – and it’s all for a paper fishfinger in a bag..
Dominating the park is the dilapidated fairytale castle of broken dreams. ‘Step inside’, say the downcast attendants, ‘See how it really feels to be a princess’..
Through the darkness is the car-crash of Cinderella’s coach, her dying body illuminated by the flashes of pap’s cameras. We’re looking at them, looking at us..feeding us, feeding them..
Sometimes it’s the smaller, allegedly quieter stuff that catches the eye..
Sometimes the message is so strong to the extent you feel sleazy and ambushed with dirty fluids. This isn’t a place that brands itself on palatable.
The art wants you to look, not just spectate. to take part and not just consume..which is a line that is all too easily crossed. How many people are there walking around with the balloons stating ‘I am an imbecile’? Or actually taking selfies in the selfie hole?
Did these people really understand what they were doing? Did they nod sagely knowing they were doing this ironically? But then their ignorance becomes part of the point.
This isn’t a place for children despite there being works designed with them in mind..like the depressed, drunk Mr Rainbow puffing fumes over his tired playground..
Or The Husband’s favourite: Pocket Money Loans
Where the devil was in the detail.
Take a seat in a stripey deckchair and watch Punch and Judy landing a punch with a Jimmy Savile themed show..
Put up your feet at the Jeffrey Archer memorial pit fire. He’s still alive but a book of his dies every day.
Come into one of three galleries to wander round at your leisure. Meet the baby in the vending machine, covered in logos by Dietrich Wegner, guaranteed to make you ponder life.
Meet Jessica Harrison’s distortion of suburban tranquility.
Wonder if Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene is her real name or is just another trick of the mind. The art – tapestries made with power tools, certainly had a kick.
Banksy has pulled it off: It’s hard to be underground when you’re hailed as a national treasure by the very people you want to vilify, but that’s part of the conundrum that makes Banksy’s Dismaland so very special – it’s a spoof on the British holiday by the sea – take it seriously and you miss the point, and yet it quietly smiles through blackened teeth and grittily mocks: don’t understand this at your peril…
Impeccably crafted and precision cut, deeply unsettling yet strangely entertaining it’s so good, it can’t be legal..and probably isn’t.
Laters, Kate x