William Cashmore

Naked Politics Blogger

A run down lido, grumpy security guards in hi-vis vests, and the Grim Reaper spinning around and around in a dodgem to the Bee Gees’ hit, “Stayin’ Alive”. No, it’s not an illustrated diagram of Tim Burton’s mind, it’s the new exhibition that’s opened up with little or no warning in the seaside town of Weston-super-mare. The artist behind it? That would be the infamous Banksy.

Quotes from reviews that you would normally show on the front page of your website tend to go along the lines of “outstanding”, “a thorough recommendation”, or at least “enjoyable”. But no, Banksy in his almighty wisdom chose the quote “truly depressing, thin, and quite boring” from The Guardian. The website also lists “spray paint, marker pens, knives, and legal representatives of the Walt Disney corporation” as some of the banned items to take into the park.

It features work from Damien Hirst, and a giant rearing horse made entirely from scaffolding by swedish artist Ben Long. Cinderella’s castle has become distinctly derelict, her pumpkin cart has crashed and the princess is left hanging out of the window with her golden hair spilling over the side, while the strobe lighting of paparazzi flashes over the scene. A few have commented on how this could quite easily be a poke at the media, as the piece is uncannily reminiscent of princess Diana’s death in 1997.

So that is why this exhibition is so obviously more than a group of artists trying to put together a large exhibition. In fact, almost every aspect of the park can be explained as some kind of metaphor for a corrupt power structure and its effects, that Banksy is evidently strongly against.

“Dismaland” is a protest against everything which Disney represents; a massive corporation, which bases itself on exploitative marketing techniques in order to lure consumers into buying things they don’t need, at a theme park which they don’t need to be at. The security guards were told that they were to be working as extras on the set of a hollywood blockbuster, but they were lied to and now have to act as brutally melancholy as possible.

The deliberate irony by Banksy to create an anarchist, anti-establishment theme park where there is an entry fee, a website which doesn’t work, and huge queues to get into the place due to its limited capacity, has drawn criticism from many people. Many feel that the place and Banksy himself, are essentially incredibly stuck-up, pretentious and big headed. But ultimately I should imagine that this is exactly what the artists behind Dismaland would have wanted. By pointing out how incredibly ridiculous Dismaland is, he is forcing people to consider the concept that parks like Disneyland, Harry Potter World, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Orlando Resort, all are exactly the same and frankly are no different to Dismaland in their general attitude for believing that the public could be so stupid to fall for something such as this.

Another interesting thing to note is the frankly impeccable timing of Dismaland. Undoubtedly this was not deliberate from the artists, as a huge amount of prior planning will have gone into the park, but while there is a huge grass-roots socialist, anti-capitalism movement in both the UK and USA, out comes the anarchistic Dismaland. Whether Banksy proceeds to make a statement with regards to current politics or not, could make a huge impact due to the great publicity that he has achieved through this exhibition.

This is why Dismaland is quite obviously an unbelievably political exhibition, and should be seen as such. I think there is evidently a very anti-capitalist feeling among a lot of the population and while Banksy may be showing that to a little bit more of an extreme, it seems that Dismaland is some kind of indicator of a movement which has probably been invisible for some time, but is just starting to show. Of course we all know that the other manifestation of this is Corbyn’s Labour Leadership surge. Whatever the case, Dismaland is everything it’s worked up to be, and that in itself, is quite deliberately nothing.


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Last Update: May 13, 2018