A “family theme park unsuitable for children” is how famed British artist Banksy is describing his new artistic venture, Dismaland.
The Disneyland-inspired ‘bemusement park’ is a funereal and almost post-apocalyptic depiction of the ‘happiest place on earth.’ It contrasts every connotation we create when thinking of Disneyland, in every sense of the experience. The art alone shows beautifully disturbing portrayals of the symbols we relate to the world-famous theme park. In Dismaland, Cinerella’s coach crashes before she even makes it to the ball, and then the princess has to deal with paparazzi clicking away at their cameras. It poses a sense of mockery relating to our obsession and idealization of pop culture and celebrities. It takes something so many see as real and makes it surreal, exposing it for what it really is, a cartoon and figment of our imagination. In todays mainstream society we idealize celebrities and big names that are perhaps unrealistically fantasized creatures of our imaginations.
Dismaland is synonymous with Banksy’s reputation for political and comical graffiti found around the world. The ‘bemusement park’ is even described as a ‘festival of art, amusement and entry-level anarchism.’ The street artist is known for exploiting truths within political corruption, pop culture and war. While he continues to remain anonymous we know he was raised in Bristol, not too far from his exhibit found in Weston-Super-Mare, Southwest England. The site was formerly a public pool, and until its unveiling locals were told it was a film set. Now that it has opened spectators can experience rides and three galleries featuring work from renowned artists like Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer. The artists exhibited are all known for their derision towards political and cultural establishments as seen through their work.
Although it is obvious that Disney is the main focus of this unique exhibition, they are not the only target put in the spotlight here. You can also find a high interest loan shop for kids seeking allowance advances, an installation where visitors navigate boats of migrants surrounded by floating bodies and an activist corner in the controversial Dismaland. Not only do these installations evoke Banksy’s pessimistic position on politics, but the staff that work at the theme park also give off this sense. From the moment you breath in the Dismaland air an unenthusiastic, dead-eyed girl in Mickey Mouse ears greets you with a monotone “Welcome to Dismaland.” You are then hassled by irritable security guards at metal detectors and will later encounter a female staffer carrying a bouquet of balloons that read, “I am an imbecile.” All of is obviously very much on purpose.
The main attractions of the “unhappiest place on earth” include a decaying fairytale castle in a moat of dirty brown water, a crashed police van, the grim reaper in a bumper car, and Willy the whale jumping out of a toilet. You can this bemusement park and Bankys’s largest exhibition to date for less than $5. That’s if you can get your hands on one of the 4000 allotted daily tickets. With all of the hype and debate over Dismaland, they are expected to sell out fast. It is clear that everyone will interpret Dismaland differently; don’t miss out on this unique experience and testimony to anarchism through art.