Dismaland Bemusement Park – Weston Super Mare
It’s ironic that a blog that I started just over a year ago to share the little things which make people happy would feature something called “Dismaland”. But when I heard about Banksy’s alternative theme park I had to get myself down there and have a look.
One grey skied Monday morning I took myself and a friend down to Weston Super Mare on the train from Bristol Parkway to see the world Banksy created. Dismaland is a short walk from the train station, we walked along the sea front until we spotted the entrance to the theme park and we thought we were lucky since we didn’t see any people outside even though we arrived around an hour before the gates opened. However, as we approached the building we realised that the queue was on the green on the other side of the road opposite the entrance, gutted. It was extremely long, even though it started raining and was quite cold (as you would expect from a British summer) we got in line. I guess Dismaland wouldn’t be complete without a dismal queue to kick things off in the cold, rain and mud. After around 2 hours we finally got to the front of the queue and were able to cross the road into the park.
The question that most people ask me when they found out I have been to Dismaland is: Was it worth the wait? Well, in a nutshell yes! An alternative family day out which sends a more appropriate message to children about the world according to Banksy. Showing them a glimpse of real life without fairytales but the lack of meaningful jobs, local injustice and modern day struggles.
I simply saw it as an alternative platform to showcase work by more then 50 artists from 17 different nations and who all have the same thoughts on reality as Banksy and are able to show their work in an environment with no limits. To this day I read things in the newspaper and still think of some of the pieces I saw that day, I am an extremely visual person and the imagery I saw that day still sticks in my mind now. Somewhere which is supposed to be so dismal it made me so inspired and happy to see so many beautiful pieces in one place, obviously I kept that to myself while I was there.
From painted pieces, sculptures, performances, film and projections there is a sinister / realistic message in pretty much everything you see while you’re in Dismaland. Artists which stood out for me in the large gallery space include:
Caroline McCarthy who uses plastic bags, rubbish, packaging, toilet paper and furniture to make art that challenges traditional perceptions. Her piece made up of loads of fast food boxes with cut out shoots of greenery in pots is am impressive sight up close and altogether. I just saw it as you should think of our planet, plants and trees before you consume for convenience sake.
Josh Keyes and his impressive paintings. His work falls into the category of :”Is that really painted?” and the imagery is just simply iconic.
Maskull Laserre, Maskull’s work oozes incredible skill and patience. He specialises in drawing out the unexpected horror in everyday life. His trademark sculptures are ones he carves to reveal a skeleton within, his carousel horse was one of my favourites at Dismaland. The intricate way that he has carved the horse is so beautiful, I think that seeing the tool marks and the grain of the wood adds to the drama of the piece. It also adds a textural difference to the lacquered finish to the original part of the horse, simply hauntingly beautiful.
Paco Pomet is a Spanish artist and his art is tainted with black humour. He says of his art, “It is necessary to try to be like a child sometimes, to be oblivious, to behave irresponsible to taste again those sensations of innocent happiness. Art can be like this very often”.
Jimmy Cauty and his ‘Aftermath Displacement Principle’ miniature village, made up of 300 riot police, destruction and civil unrest. The detail of the village and scale is thoroughly impressive. Every little detail is thought out from the little pieces of debris on the ground to the lights on the cars and street.
I heard about this miniature village before going to Dismaland, like all things nowadays you see photos and hear about everything on social media, but actually being there and seeing the scale of it was a huge impact that I wasn’t expecting.
Photos definitely don’t translate the scale of the piece let alone the effect of being in a pitch dark room only lit from the village itself complete with sirens and the shuffling and murmuring of the people walking round the perimeter of the village taking the whole atmosphere in, what an experience.
Jeff Gillette born and raised within a mile of the Magic Kingdom in California, it shows in his beautifully painted paintings. It seems like Jeff created a series of paintings which fully encompass the thought of Dismaland using iconic imagery from the ‘happiest place on earth’.
I found the images extremely beautiful to look at, if I could own one of these paintings I would take it in a heartbeat. I am glad that I was able to discover all of these new artists and I will look out for the evolution of their work in the future.
I couldn’t write this blog post without talking about the works by Damien Hurst. Always known for his bold statements, he doesn’t disappoint this time with his pieces at Dismaland. His signature powerful pieces still have the same visual impact for me. His beach ball which hovered precariously over blades caught everyone’s attention as you entered the 2nd room of the large gallery space.
But it was the signature formaldehyde unicorn which epitomised Hurst for me in the ‘Big Top Freak Show’ tent. The formaldehyde shark, bacon slicer and cow were the first pieces of his I saw and I still just see these pieces as classic Damien Hurst and hands down what I still love about him.
I never thought that he would create a mythical creature especially a unicorn but this was the perfect setting for it in among ceramic plates / teapots and cups with fingers, taxidermy snakes, and cakes with alien faces.
Now down to the pieces by the man himself, Banksy created several pieces for Dismaland the most iconic being the derelict magical castle with the blurred mermaid outside.
This castle housed the piece which I was excited to see: “Cinderella and her carriage”. When you enter the castle you walk through a dark hallway with the theme song of Cinderella playing in the background, with the end of the film playing on a small screen. At the end of the corridor you are forced by dismal staff to take a photo in front of a green screen before you enter this huge fog filled pitch dark room.
You walk around the piece from front to back walking around the group of paparazzi and their strobe flashing cameras which is the only thing which illuminates the crashed carriage, dead horses and a dead princess. The whole piece was larger then I thought making the whole experience extremely impressive.
Everyone else in the room with you are taking photos as well adding to the paparazzi group. I couldn’t help think that Banksy intended everyone who went in the room to be apart of the installation.
When you leave the castle, just like a fairground ride you can buy a souvenir photo just of yourself behind the group of paparazzi instead of yourself having fun on a ride. I have been told that some people have received a special Banksy style note with Diana’s head instead of the Queen’s. Just another thing which Banksy has put into the whole experience to make it a little more unique.
It was the first time that I have seen Banksy delve into something other then his signature stencil graffiti. 2 new graffiti pieces one in the gallery and one outside with tongue and cheek messages on relevant topics which is what we fell in love with Banksy for in the beginning.
Other pieces include his dodgem riding death which moves to the Beegees “Staying alive”.\
A bench where you can sit next to a woman being attacked by seagulls.
A police vehicle with a waterslide coming out of it, and so much more.
As with any theme park there were rides, including a carousel complete with one horse being hung ready to be turned into Lasagne, a tar filled pool where it is impossible to hook a duck to win a fish finger in a bag, and a of course you can drive a little electric boat filled with migrants.
Everywhere you look in Banksy’s world there are nods to harsh reality, including a Punch and Judy show complete with references to 50 shades of grey and why Judy always gets beaten by Punch.
No matter what you think of Banksy and his work there is lots to like about Dismaland, whether it be the artwork, the novelty of the whole experience or the live events / gigs. I think that Weston is the perfect backdrop for Banksy’s vision and whether you like it or not the amount of people who have visited Dismaland and seen the artwork of all these creative people is staggering for a mere £3 a ticket.
Even though it was raining, cold, all the rusty fairground rides dotted around the place didn’t work and the mini golf ball never reappeared from my mini golf round the experience was definitely worth the visit and it didn’t feel gimmicky or extremely pre-planned.
If you have a whole day to stand and queue for tickets this weekend as all the pre-booked tickets have gone then it’s worth a go. Just keep an open mind, don’t let the weather and the staff get you down as once you’re in the things that you see will bring your spirits up I guarantee it.
I doubt you will see this collection of art together again, and it is nothing but and inspirational, even exiting through the gift shop put a spring in my step – ssshhh don’t tell anyone as you have to be dismal in Dismaland.
For more information on Dismaland visit their website.
Have you been to Banksy’s bemusement park? What was your favourite piece or part of the park? I took way too many photos to put them all in one post, if you want to see more then follow me on twitter, Facebook or Instagram.