The street artist Banksy has brought together over 50 international artists to create a new theme park in a derelict lido in Weston-super-Mare, previously called the Tropicana. The theme park or ‘bemusement park’ as he calls it, mixes the language of fairgrounds, fantasy castles and holidays with a darker reality.
Your familiar amusements have been subverted. The hook-a-duck stall is now a ‘pluck-a-duck-from-the-muck’. The muck is an oil slick and if you win you can take away a fish finger in a plastic bag. Migrants, looking to make a desperate crossing, now occupy the remote control boats. Not all of them have made it. A woman sitting on a bench is attacked by seagulls, for probably rustling a small piece of paper, and the paddling pool fountain is now an armour plated water cannon vehicle previously from Northern Ireland.
You can buy a balloon with ‘I am an imbecile’ on it from the dismal seller if she can be bothered to talk to you that is, or sit in a deck chair and watch the outside cinema with a selection of artists film. The rusting fairytale castle is full of paparazzi snapping the dying princess in her upturned pumpkin carriage.
Inside one of the darkened galleries the dodgems are looking pretty run down. A Jenny Holzer sign flashes. The Blue Oyster Cults classic 1976 tune ‘Don’t fear the Reaper’ starts up and emerging from behind a corrugated iron wall comes Banksy’s ‘Grim Reaper’ driving a bumper car with his scythe pointing skyward. James Joyce’s ‘Here for a Good Time, not a Long Time’, is a rotating animation of the acid smiley face that tosses the eyes and smile round like a washing machine. Damien Hirst’s beach ball is levitated on a jet of air just above a bed of sharp carving knives.
Jimmy Cauty’s hand-crafted miniature world, which is actually pretty massive, brings the model village up to date with ‘a town frozen in the moments just after a huge period of civil unrest.’ The blue lights are still flashing across the landscape as the police take a break in the Burger King.
Back outside again, Banksy’s glitching Mermaid sculpture sited in the old paddling pool reminds us how much technology has changed the way we see the world through digital screens. When was the last time you saw snowstorm interference or rolling on your TV? We now have new interference to replace our old.
Next to an oversized sandcastle with a windmill on top, presumably to attract the children, there is a trade stand selling ‘Payday Loans 4 Kids’ to help them get an advance on their pocket money.
The porter loos are signed ‘Bogs’ in Dismaland. Maybe as I was visiting on the first day they had not had time to find their full dismalness yet.
Although Banksy has brought this dismalness into one venue, the themes are commonplace and the aesthetic familiar. On the beach outside the venue is a stall flogging plastic wares to tourists. It’s adorned with a large skull and crossbones flag and sports a plastic owl on the end of a pole.
Long live Dismaland!(Review – Stephen Monger)