It should be a relief to artists everywhere to see that international notoriety and its accompanying wealth hasn’t dulled the creative blade of Banksy. The bête noire of the gallery art scene has opened his latest installation in Weston-super-Mare (near Somerset, England) and titled it Dismaland.
The decaying Disneyland Theme Park holds up a rather sinister fun-house mirror to our civilization’s increasingly twisted values, and does so without the hackneyed irony we see from so many fringe artist wanna-bes.
The Dismaland website is marketing the “Bemusement Park” as the “UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction.” And who better than a graffiti artist from Bristol to host it.
The center piece of the exhibit is a massive, fire-ravaged Disney-style castle, sans the colorful overhead fireworks, which likely caused the devastation to begin with. Beneath it is the decomposing Dismaland logo. This is spirit-sucking branding worthy of the Adams Family living room.
The derelict castle reflects off of stagnant outdoor pool. When this was the Tropicana Lido, built in 1937, it was Europe’s largest outdoor swimming pool. The park closed in 2000 and has laid fallow since, so this is 100% all-natural, gluten-free degradation, you’ll be experiencing. Now, motorized toy boats float in the fetid water, each overflowing with desperate refugees. A welcoming first view that’s nothing short of bone chilling.
“I loved the Tropicana as a kid, so getting to throw these doors open again is a real honor.” Says Banksy. “I hope everyone from Weston will take the opportunity to once more stand in a puddle of murky water eating cold chips to the sound of crying children.”
The show opens at an usually chaotic moment in European history. Mass migrations from war town countries and the accompanying xenophobia from those reluctantly receiving them, global financial instability, endemic governmental scandals, the gutted middle class– shit, you know the rest. But what is most astounding is the facility with which we rationalize our lack of empathy.
Life is short and brutal, shut out as much of the negative as you can. This is evidenced in the record setting attendance Disneyland Paris had this summer, at almost $100 entry fee for children. A friend recently reported that it was “the highlight of his vacation.” So much for the Left Bank Hemmingway bar crawling tour.
A few of the representational catastrophes you can enjoy at Dismaland include a detailed model town in lockdown after a riot. The only people left on the street are police. A Punch-N-Judy show confronting domestic abuse. A fairy princess dangling lifelessly from an upturned carriage, illuminated by paparazzi flashes. And an interactive game “Hook a Duck From the Muck” with which every environmentally aware child will have hours of fun. Works have been created by Julie Burchill, Damien Hearst, and Jimmy Cauty, to name just a few. But none by Bansky himself.
“I seem to have reach the point where an art show is more interesting the less I’m in it.” Says the anonymous curator.
The only thing missing from this corroding exhibition is some grotesque misrepresentation of Donald Trump. His crass materialism, casual racism, relentless self-aggrandizement, and keen ability to speak before thinking would be the rotted cherry on the top of this sour Sunday. It could be constructed from the left over scrap of one of his many failed casinos: an apt tribute to the mogul’s four-time corporate bankruptcy filings.
The exhibition runs for a few months. And it’s mostly sold-out. But chanel the spirit of Banksy and find alternate ways in… I’m sure he’d approve. Once you jump the fence, be sure to obey the rules: “The following are strictly prohibited in the park – spray paint, marker pens, knives and legal representatives of the Walt Disney Corporation.”