Many pieces are sharp critiques on modern amusement. Banksy’s whale jumping trough a ring in a toilet was inspired by Sea World that was ripped apart by the 2013 documentary “Blackfish.” Or Cinderella’s crashed carnage inside her grungy dark castle, surrounded by flashing paparazzi with motorbikes. When you leave the ‘scene’, you can buy your own souvenir photograph for 5 pound. (“Terribly expensive”, as the staff comments without asking.)
Another central spot is the Jeffrey Archer Memorial Fire Pit where visitors can warm themselves around a daily burning of the local lord’s books. There is Ben Long’s sculpture of a horse constructed from scaffolding (a piece that was shown in the V&A).
I loved Banksy’s model boat pond with overly crowded boats packed with asylum seekers you can operate yourself from the side with a (paying) remote controller. You never know if you will stair a police boat or the refugee boat and that’s the point. Some dead bodies floating in the water could not be more pain full, with little refugee Aylan in mind, found dead on the coast of Bodrum a few weeks ago…. Entertainment art, deadly serious and overtly political.
What else? A puppet revue show constructed from the contents of Hackney skips, an armor-plated riot control vehicle built to serve in Northern Ireland now stranded in the greenish water of the abandoned swimming pool of The Tropicana, a children’s slide on the right flank. Or ‘back-of-your-head’ caricature artist Nettie Wakefield, the woman-on-a-bench engulfed by seagulls by Banksy and the Big Rig Jig – a petrol tanker bent into a ‘S’ shape by American artist Mike Ross, first built at Burning Man some years ago.
And off course, some installations are real entertainment park stuff: a rusty Ferris wheel (a stunning aerial view on the park), the very fast horse carousel, a destroyed mini golf, the not-so-happy sandbox right next to a loan office offering a 5,000% interest rate…. There is so much, we needed out two visits and we even want to go back another time….
There are people who don’t get it. Who are looking behind every installation for a ‘wow’ entertainment factor. ‘Does it do anything?’, as Bansky overheard a visitor asking, looking at Ben Long’s scaffolding horse…. HELP!!
Banksy does not do subtle art. It’s loud, crass and sometimes obvious. Subtility is not the first language of a street artist after all. A Banksy event is always in the face. From its initial shroud of secrecy to themes of apocalypse, anti-consumerism and social critiques on celebrity culture, immigration, and law enforcement. Banksy himself brings it like this: “There are too many things we need to discuss in the actual world before I start making abstract art.” I agree.
And, as many things, the true magic of Dismaland lays in the details.
The stars of the art show are the apathetic, magnificent well-casted staff with ‘DISMAL’ printed fluo pink safety vests and mouse-ear hats made with black paint pot lids. There is one who welcomes you, whispering totally absent: “Welcome to Dismaland”, others tell you to “end joy” the attractions or just rudely send you home ‘cause there is nothing to do and to see’. Some sell or hand out the park’s brochure or the hilarious, 5 £ each ‘I am an imbecile- helium balloons by artist David Shrigley. Or there is a one-armed attendant girl who hands out the sticks to play mini golf and applauds sarcastically when you score a point.
The fun part is, they switch roles during the day, 300% indifferent on what happens on the fair, uninterested in being helpful or remotely informative. The entire team was recruited when they answered a local paper ad for film extras. They are great.
The entire day there is an annoying but in a way reassuring electronic Hawaiian track that plays over and over again, just interrupted by artist Jenny Holzer mind fucking slogans played on the Tannoy system installed in the park.
Details I said…
Banksy explains: “we spent three weeks carving the foam wheels for Cinderella’s carriage and nobody notices them at all. It took another month getting the remote control boats to float after I overloaded them with people. Banksy’s attempt to power the entire site using a giant copy of a child’s pinwheel, only to find the results seriously under-powering. “I guess it’s become a monument to how much further we’ve still got to go,” he says.
Need I mention that the exit is through the gift shop? A gift shop with –again- a selection of typical them park merchandise: Dismaland branded sweaters, T-shirts and a catalogue.
Just as to be expected, and so right. Again.
(By the way, the Dismaland branding isn’t about Disney at all – its just a framework that says – OK, we accept that making art puts us in the light entertainment industry, and we’ll attempt to engage at that level – but for the left.)
I there a chance that Dismaland stays open longer?
Banksy explained in street art.magazine recently: “We have tall structures which have been built and certified for one weather period. It gets windy there and we’re not insured for one minute past the last day of September.”
So you know. And hurry, it’s worth it.
North Somerset BS23 1BE
11am – 11pm.
All images courtesy of Kate Stockman & Ivan Missinne for_The Squid stories
Read the first part of Kate’s article “Banksy’s Dismaland, a fabulous stunt art show packed as an entertainment park. PART 1” on thesquidstories.com