After four weeks of waiting and a week before it closed I finally managed to weave in a visit to Banksy's Dismaland exhibit at Weston-super-Mare. Having previously driven past the Bristol exhibition and abandoned my attempt at one glance of the very, very long queue, this time I'd tried fighting the masses in an online scrum to get a guaranteed ticket, but to no avail. And so I risked the queue finally after driving up and down the M5 three times previously.
Turning up and waiting in the walk-up queue I found myself right near the back but next to some happy and easy-going people who made what turned out to be a two-hour wait quite easy to digest. One lady had an 'insider' stood on a balcony opposite who was relaying the queue progress. Everyone else (an intelligent looking bunch I'd say) was neatly lined up to the righthand side patiently - I think the reappearance of the sun helped this.
|So far, so dismal, Dismaland pronounced dismal land|
I paid my £3 and was handed my 'Banksy Band' then told to get moving. I went through real security (to check for spray paints), then Bill Barminsky's security screening room where I had a cardboard scanner slapped on my face and run over my head.
|Bill Barminsky's security screening room at Dismaland|
Dismaland 'The happiest place on earth..a theme park like no other' sinister, traumatising and overall, dismal. I felt compulsed to go just at the very mention of it, expecting a political experience to fit with my very own thoughts and feelings of the world we're currently living in.
And so I wasn't disappointed. Although I wish I'd turned up earlier because what could have been four hours to take in all the work for me was only two so I had to try and take in as much as possible in a limited time without reading up on my way around. I did manage quite a few photos which you can view in full on my Flickr gallery but didn't get chance to take a look in the Museum of Cruel Objects, the Big Top Freak Show, Astronaut's Caravan or check out the payday loans for kids.
The main exhibition was the most serious part of Dismaland for me, it touched on so much of what's wrong with the world due to the diversity of artists participating. In total 61 artists are listed as having work curated into the show from worldwide, 61 perspectives on the challenges that can only be overcome by trying to influence political leaders who aren't listening. A range of issues covering genetic engineering, the mis-sold dream we're living, abuse of the world's natural resources, the control structures we live in that protect corporate gain, impending doom, war and various angles at which the different artists are exploring these topics.
Ever a fan of dystopian literature, for me distopian topics within art really nail it for our era. I grew up to messages of the impending doom that would occur in our lifetime if we did nothing to make sure that global warming, pollution, war weren't eradicated. Chemistry books and other literature were illustrated with diagrams of how the world could be (and now, is) poisoned. At school we learnt biochemistry, we cut up cells to grow 'warts' on carrots (whether this was part of a government strategy to develop these skills in the smart kids of Generation X to help the likes of Monsanto rather than to enlighten I'm sure nobody will tell us but at least we're aware). Women's magazines had messages of supporting Peta, Greenpeace and other campaigning charities so that we looked outside of ourselves into our surroundings for things to care about, rather than growing obsessed with our Selves.
Yet now it feels like these messages have been obliterated, and so to this end I'm grateful that under the umbrella of Banksy's ability to talk to a wider audience, this curation of work and all the different voices of these artists are together a full story of what, for me at least, is most of what is wrong with the world. My only fear is that the masses aren't listening, or they don't want to because they either feel powerless against the authorities to do anything, or they're self-obsessed, both of which are themes in the show.
|Stampede by Josh Keyes shows the impact of urban sprawl on our surroundings|
|Cucumber Killer Whale by Art Director Brock Davis - he's out of water so this reminds me of SeaWorld..|
|The Tower Block by Lee Madgwick - Brutalist architecture irrespective of the environment it sits in - I read this as being that our development into the countryside is ever-increasing|
|Genetic engineering in the foreground amplified to be even more sinister by Dietrich Wegner's mushroom cloud behind, it's like the mice have escaped from the lab during a nuclear war - perhaps this is a dark future after we've interfered with nature|
|Several pieces by Paco Pomet were on show at Dismaland that illustrate man trying to conquer the natural world - so much in this piece Rojo (Red) that the insides of the world are being split open, we are literally bleeding the world dry|
|Paco Pomet - trying to feel childhood innocence again despite all the problems in the world|
|Laura Lancaster's distorted and anonymous images|
|Jessica Harrison's hand sculpted and painted porcelain figures tattooed with symbols of kitsch and suburban tranquillity|
And so what of the big guns of the show - the big exhibits such as Banksy's Cinderella's Castle or cinema? Banksy's own pieces - a satirical, humorous and cutting commentary on the media, lives wasted playing to the tune of Government will, political commentary on the dumbing down of serious issues and, with Cinderella's castle, the media whirlwind that is the castle that masks problems and is a focal point for propaganda and constructs that rule the population and keep the public under control. While we're working just to stay alive our world is surrounded by a blur of amusements to keep us distracted until Death takes us (and Death is having a party at our expense).
Watch Death on a dodgem at Dismaland:
|Cinderella's sinister ending in the Dismaland Castle|
|Banksy's biggest piece, the giant Cinderella castle offering souvenir photos of your trip to see the press and media onslaught of an ended dream|
If you fancied being a real life part of the commentary, you could pay to happily ride a fairground carousel as though it were a normal attraction, oblivious until the horsemeat scandal was revealed when it turned, exposing cover up and corruption, use and abuse of animals. To me, this talks about the hypocrisy of how we live in line with what messages we're fed from childhood and more broadly, messages fed to us by corporations.
|Horsemeat scandal - what's in your food, do you even notice?|
Leading nicely onto the use of SeaWorld and other 'dolphinariums' and amusement parks fuelling a dark and underground trade in wild animals slaughtered and brought into captivity. You can find out more about this by watching The Cove Movie or Blackfish. But remember to bring an iron stomach.
|Banksy's Orca being forced to perform jumping out of the toilet into a murky muddy paddling pool - how is it as a race we think it's acceptable to keep whales and dolphins in captivity for our entertainment, do people think about how they get there?|
Many of the bemusement park exhibits were experiential - hooking a duck from an oil spill, driving the remote controlled refugee boats. In my limited time the one that I took part in was 'buying the souvenir brochure' from the ice cream van. This was an utter delight to me. I queued up in a British way and waited a little while as the couple in front of me handed over their £5 to be handed the brochure in the most painfully slow way by a despondent and truly miserable Dismaland employee. She was so well cast for the role, her whole demeanour and facial expressions lending themselves to not caring. Slowly the change was handed over and it was my turn. I had a variation on the routine, reluctant handover of the brochure, a scowl and then the slow uncurling of the middle finger followed by having my fiver change defaced by slowly rolling it up and folding it into a really small wrap. I've kept it that way until I need to spend it. It made me laugh.
|You get some attitude with your change round here|
|The system's corrupt - Banksy's riot van in front of the Dismaland castle|
Various announcements for 'go on you lot, clear off' were made and obediently I had to Exit through the Gift Shop. Ejected.
If you too feel rushed and pressured, you can see more photos of Banksy's Dismaland by taking a look at my photo stream when you've got time.
|Don't forget to buy a souvenir T-shirt on the way out... if the staff don't kick you out first|