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Banksy’s ambitious project: an ironic bemusement park

14 September 20150 comments
Dismaland Pond Photo

One of the exhibits at Dismaland, a pond full of asylum seeker boats.

Britain’s most secretive artist, Banksy, famous for his controversial and satirical graffiti art, has opened Dismaland, a bemusement park which unexpectedly encourages visitors to disengage and be confronted by its attractions.

Among the exhibits designed to point out some the world’s greatest absurdities are a pond full of asylum seeker boats, two trucks performing ballet and an anarchist training camp running courses on how to break into advertising billboards.

Poignantly located at an abandoned seaside resort called Tropicana in Weston-super-Mare, England, this grand-scale sculpture park with gallery space (first thought to be a film set by residents) launched on 22 August and will be open for five weeks only for those lucky enough to gain entry.

Unfortunately the online ticketing system keeps crashing as millions of fans are desperate to take a peek. Funnily enough, this frustration is all part of the experience.

Dismaland.co.uk calls itself UK’s most disappointing new website and celebrates a review from The Guardian coining the park as “truly depressing, thin and quite boring”.

With imagery overtly referencing Walt Disney’s own theme park through its use of a similar logo and presence of a central castle on site (although this version is rundown and unfinished), Dismaland is defined as “a festival of art, amusements and entry-level anarchism.”

The Bleak grey and unfinished grounds at Dismaland.

The Bleak grey and unfinished grounds at Dismaland.

The main colour palate for the grounds is a bleak grey where Banksy’s own political and curated works from invited artists’ provide a fascinating juxtaposition to the “sugar-coated tedium of the average family day out”.

Only costing 3 pounds to enter with children under five entering free, Friday nights involve stellar live music events with renowned activists Pussy Riot and the popular Massive Attack as headlining acts.

This surreal and dystopian environment littered with black humour is designed to be a commentary on self-obsession, indulgence and the harsh realities of the world we live in today.

Visitors are welcome to hashtag #MyDismalExperience as they wait for hours in queues to then be faced with two stages of security, one real to detect contraband items including spray cans and the other fake, complete with a cardboard entrance and paper ‘metal’ detectors by artist Bill Barminski.

If you require assistance, attendants in bright pink vests are there to ‘help’. Many attendants sport Mickey Mouse ears as headwear and are paid to keep a sullen appearance. Random announcements include a child’s voice reminding us that “ambition is just as dangerous as complacency.”

Encounter Grim Reaper riding dodgem cars, a cynical pocket money loans scheme for children to buy toys on credit with high interest rates and portrait artists available to draw the back of your head only.

Dismaland is an impressive exercise in challenging societal norms with the most provocative pieces by Banksy including an exhibit highlighting the migrant crisis with asylum seekers aboard overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean and the shocking interpretation of the Cinderella fairy tale referencing Princess Diana’s own fate complete with paparazzi present to capture her doom.

This special leisure activity is not for everyone but the visual art lover will revel in this three-dimensional ugly, urban wasteland filled with bizarre installations and thought-provoking creations.

 

 

Sophia Sourris
AMES Australia Staff Writer