Dismaland claims itself to be ‘the UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction’ and a persistent sense of drudgery is the running joke of the event. The staff play it bored and rude, tacky musak repeats endlessly and whilst you’re queuing - being England - it’s probably raining. It all comes together as a good laugh, perhaps because the parody is not so different from the seaside reality.
Throughout the site, work from various artists, engineers and designers are installed with the general theme being anti-authoritarianism-on-sea. The centrepiece continues in the spirit of misery - a large fairy tale castle by set builders Block9, but one that has dilapidated to reveal the cheap materials of its construction.
There is a joy in absurdity to be found in all directions, like reading Kafka on laughing gas. A stall by David Shrigley offers, for £1.00, the chance to knock over an anvil with a ping pong ball and win the anvil. A sculpture by Mike Ross presents two juggernaut trucks dancing and twirling through the air in 1:1 scale. Paul Insect and Bast create a puppet show from the contents of skips. Much of the artwork and installations are explicitly socially and politically focused. Darren Cullen has created a stall offering pocket money loans to kids at only 5000% APR. Julie Birchill presents Punch and Julie - a puppet show about domestic violence. Jimmy Cauty exhibits his Aftermath Displacement Principle - a post-riot model-village.
There are many more works and features across the site, including an art gallery with a broad selection of painters, sculptors and conceptual artists. Consolidating this all is Guerrilla Island – a corner of Dismaland run by left wing activists with an invitation to get involved with radical politics.
Banksy’s work features prominently on the site. An installation inside the Dismaland castle depicts a Cinderella carriage that has crashed, leaving Cinderella thrown through the window and snapped by paparazzi whilst they ignore her distress. The issues of consumer voyeurism driven home not by the installation as such, but by the presence of the viewer and the role the audience must play - the apathy of the scene echoed in particular by the inevitable disinterested click of a smart phone camera. Elsewhere, in another Banksy installation, the grim reaper dances around on a bumper car to the Beegees’ Staying Alive. So far so photogenic, that is until the animatronics appear to malfunction abruptly and in the audience the general mood changes from enthralment to confusion to embarrassment. The full impact of the piece is connected intrinsically to the initial voyeurism and the ultimate disorientation of the crowd.
Dismaland is more than a satire of a theme park, it is much more significant than that. There is a riotous spirit running through the event as a whole that balances the cynicism with sincerity and the humour with an angry punch. Like much of Banksy’s work, Dismaland is an arena of art in which a social and political sentiment is prioritised unapologetically. The success of it all is that its message is real. ‘Here’, summarises Banksy, ‘you’re encouraged to consider, not just consume, to look, not just spectate and most important of all - beware of uneven floor surfaces.'
- October 02, 2015
- John De Plume