Welcome to Dismaland, a temporary art exhibit by street artist/genius Banksy. In the seaside British town of Weston-super-Mare, Dismaland is a pop-up bemusement park organized in secrecy by the provocateur artist. This apocalyptic Disneyland is only open for 5 weeks, from August 21st to September 27th, 2015. The show features 10 new pieces by Banksy, along with works from 58 international artists.
My friend and artist extraordinaire Emmanuel Laflamme had the chance to visit Dismaland last week, as one of the few who’ll have done so. He was kind enough to answer my questions and offer the photos he took during his visit. Here’s his account of this unique exhibit!
What IS Dismaland exactly?
It’s Banksy’s endeavour into the theme park industry, presented in a way that comments on the very thing he’s participating in. It’s also a mega art installation featuring the works of 58 artists from all over the world, and is advertised as the UK’s most disappointing new attraction… or as Banksy explains: “It’s a theme park whose message is that theme parks should have bigger themes.”
Who do you think Dismaland is intented for? Is it for art fans only? Is it for kids?
I guess it’s for anybody who isn’t entirely satisfied with the current state of the world. I think it was built with a wide audience in mind, not only for art fans or Banksy fans, for that matter. I’m sure kids can get a kick out of it as well, especially if they are briefed and accompanied by a parent who understands the intent of the show… however, there’s a warning for strobe lighting, smoke effects and swearing and the park’s been marketed as “a family theme park unsuitable for children”…
What were your first impressions when you got there?
After a 15-hour journey that included a plane, a bus, a train, a cab and very little sleep, I went straight to Dismaland. Passing through the fake security at the gates, my first impression was : this is one big, open sky, “dinner for schmucks”. And I was so happy to be a part of it. I don’t consider myself to be a cynical or self-loathing person, but I can enjoy sarcasm when it comes to art.
What are some of the recurring themes throughout the park?
Everywhere I looked, I could see mindless consumerism, despair, chaos and decay. The place is filled with CCTV cameras, always watching the public react to the attractions. The games are bad on purpose, and impossible to win. The prizes are crap and the merchandise in the gift shop is super expensive. Let’s put it this way; I don’t think I fully understood what cynicism was before going to Dismaland. And after a day of walking around the park, it dawned on me. One thing was missing from the show : hope. No solution seems to be brought forward and most of the art dwells on the worst aspects of humanity. Confronted with these visions of despair and tragedy, I was left with two options : go back home and feel miserable or look at the only place left to find hope; inside myself.
How does the exhibit actually work?
Taken as a whole, the park can be seen as an artwork in itself; a big installation comprised of smaller pieces if you will. Everything that’s outside is meant to feel like a theme park, with games, rides, castle and gift shop. The art exhibit is located inside. If you take your time to visit properly and want to get a good feeling for the place, you should plan for a whole afternoon. It’s also worth it to come back at night, you’ll get a whole other experience.
Who are some of the participating artists?
Banksy, Damien Hirst, Espo, Escif, BÄST & Paul Insect, Jimmy Cauty, Axel Void, Jenny Holzer, Mike Ross, Joanna Pollonais and Maskull Laserre.
What did you think of the exhibit?
I found the indoor exhibit quite impressive. It is varied in style and genre with paintings, prints, installations, projections and sculptures, there’s something for everybody. My favourite pieces were Jimmy Cauty’s large hand crafted miniature world filled with police “The aftermath dislocation principle part I”, Mike Ross’ Big Rig Jig (a large sculpture composed of two trucks on top of each other) and Banksy’s Cinderella’s Castle, a pretty grim tribute to Lady Di that’s only lit with camera flashes.
And of the experience as a whole?
On first sight, it’s easy to assume Dismaland was imagined by rich people with a weird sense of humour. There’s a joke… but it may not be on you, if you realize what’s really going on. If Dismaland has taught me anything, it’s that no answer will come from outside… and confronted with the worst, the only solution seems to be looking within. I went back home feeling alive and grateful, thinking “I’ve got to bring something positive into this world”. We all have the power to envision a better reality. Art is only a trigger. It reminds us to pay attention, otherwise we might be missing the entire show.
Entry ticket costs 3£. Limited availability for walk-ins, but online tickets are now sold out.
Transport: To get to Dismaland from London, hop on a train to Weston-super-Mare (2.5hrs). Cost is approx. 100£ with First Great Western.
Accommodation: The Beaches Hotel, right in front of Dismaland, has single rooms for 40£.
About the author:
Emmanuel Laflamme (@quartertofour) is a mash-up artist from Montreal. His work can be seen at Station 16 gallery and sometimes in the streets, but mostly online.