Dismaland Bemusement Park is a theme park with a difference – a dystopian playground created by the anonymous artist, Banksy in the derelict Lido in Weston-Super-Mare. The artist has assembled the work of fifty other artists from around the world as far apart as Palestinian painters to the British writer Julie Burchill. The latter was commissioned to write a modern Punch and Judy whose theme is domestic violence which Burchill was a victim of:
“Good day to you my audience, you seem a smashing bunch, let me introduce myself, my name is Mr Punch. I’m part of your folk history like saucy Jack the Ripper. We both like a bit of fun like beating up a stripper” says Burchill in her opening poetic refrain.
Other installations that represent just a few of the park’s attractions include a fairy tale castle with a grizzly grotto, a boating lake full of refugees and a model village running riot.
As you enter the theme park, you are confronted by a security screening room manned by officious looking security guards, as fabricated as the threats its protecting us from, In reality, this happens to be an installation by American artist Bill Barminsky. “Any guns grenades or unicorns on you today”?, inquires one of the guards, all of whom look like they have just stepped out of the set of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
Dismaland is a very different kind of family day out, one which presents a more appropriate message to the next generation faced with the lack of meaningful work and global injustice. A step away from street art, this show is Banksy’s graffiti rendered into three dimensions. In addition to the representation of some of his traditional themes, he also presents some other new and shocking ones.
The refugee crisis off the shores of Europe, for example, becomes the subject of remote controlled motor boats. Miniature model boats crammed full with desperate looking replica humans drift on the water while some other less fortunate figures lie face down arms stretched and bloated floating on its surface.
Dismaland was perhaps part inspired by the pessimistic themes of the artist Jeff Gillette who, from his home in California, has been subverting Disney for many years. Jimmy Cauti, formerly of the pioneering UK acid House band, KLF. has presented a very different kind of street art at the show – a model of a town after a riot in which the only people remaining on the streets are 3,000 police and media standing around doing nothing looking at each other after the riot has happened.
Other pieces include Crazy Gulf -,A War About Oil – where you can hit a golf ball through a pipeline. You can also play Hook A Duck out of thick black water resulting from the aftermath of an oil slick. Children in need of more cash can borrow against their pocket money at just 5,000% APR from a nearby stall.
The climax of the exhibition is Banksy’s Castle. What he has done with an upturned carriage and a fairy princess is an extraordinary and evocative experience that’s funny, poignant and ultimately controversial which is precisely its point. You leave the exhibition, predictably, via the gift shop.
Banksy told Channel 4 News:
“For this show I didn’t deliberately set out to snub street art, I just found other stuff a lot more interesting. I seem to have reached the point where an art show is more interesting the less I’m in it.”
Dismaland Bemusement Park is open for six weeks.