'Inside the walls of a derelict seaside swimming resort in Weston-super-Mare, UK, mysterious construction over the last month—including a dingy looking Disney-like castle and a gargantuan rainbow-colored pinwheel tangled in plastic—suggested something big was afoot. Suspicion and anticipation surrounding the unusual activity attributed to fabled artist and provocateur Banksy has reached a Willy Wonka-esque fervor. Well, if Banksy’s your bag, continue fervoring. If not, there’s more than a few reasons to continue reading.
The spectacle has since been revealed to be a pop-up art exhibition in the form of an apocalyptic theme park titled Dismaland (“The UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction”) that will be open to the public for five weeks. The event has all the hallmark details of a traditional Banksy event from its initial shroud of secrecy to artistic themes of apocalypse, anti-consumerism, and pointed social critiques on celebrity culture, immigration, and law enforcement. However, there’s one major deviation: the bulk of the artwork packed into three main interior galleries was created by dozens of other artists.
So just what’s hidden inside the walls of this derelict seaside resort? A demented assortment of bizarre and beautiful artworks from no less than 58 global artists including Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Jimmy Cauty, Bill Barminski, Caitlin Cherry, Polly Morgan, Josh Keyes, Mike Ross, David Shrigley, Bäst, and Espo. Banksy is also showing 10 artworks of his own. Dismaland features a cavalcade of artists featured here on Colossal over the last few years including pieces by Escif, Maskull Lasserre, Kate McDowell, Paco Pomet, Dietrich Wegner, Michael Beitz, Brock Davis, Ronit Baranga, and others.
Here’s some text from the event’s official brochure:
"Are you looking for an alternative to the soulless sugar-coated banality of the average family day out? Or just somewhere cheaper. Then this is the place for you—a chaotic new world where you can escape from mindless escapism. Instead of a burger stall, we have a museum. In place of a gift shop we have a library, well, we have a gift shop as well. Bring the whole family to come and enjoy the latest addition to our chronic leisure surplus—a bemusement park. A theme park whose big theme is: theme parks should have bigger themes… This event contains adult themes, distressing imagery, extended use of strobe lighting, smoke effects and swearing. The following items are strictly prohibited: knives, spraycans, illegal drugs, and lawyers from the Walt Disney corporation."
In addition to art you’ll also find functional a terrifying carousel, a mini golf park, a ferris wheel, and some ludicrously impossible fair games (like ‘topple the anvil with a ping pong ball’ by David Shrigley), roving occupy protests, and a Star Wars stormtrooper that sulks around the exhibition in a state of complete misery. The park is staffed by morose Dismaland employees who are uninterested in being helpful or remotely informative. Entrance to the event requires an uncomfortably awkward NSA-esque security screening, and of course, you exit through the gift shop.'
+ Welcome to Dismaland: A First Look at Banksy’s New Art Exhibition Housed Inside a Dystopian Theme Park:
Tell us about your role here. Has it been an interesting process being a curator? Is it a role that you enjoyed?
Banksy: "It turns out curating can be surprisingly creative. For instance, I asked Jenny Holzer for one of her electronic signs, but she didn’t have anything in stock. She said she was happy to supply the text, but I’d have to find some signs. I asked a lighting guy to get a big LED screen and he came back with a system that cost £8000 a week to rent. I couldn’t afford that, so I suggested we record Jenny’s slogans and play them over the Tannoy system. She liked the idea and said she’d never done anything like it in forty years. So now we have a totally original Jenny Holzer that cost fuck all."
Did you do a lot of editing? Were there things you liked at first that got cut out and other things that grew because you liked the direction they were heading?
"A lot of the decisions have been made by neglect. I put together a whole list of artists and pieces I wanted, and then, a month later, if I hadn’t done anything about it, I knew it probably wasn’t worth pursuing. When you’re busy, the most important things have a way of asserting themselves. I discovered “not now” is as valid a reaction as anything else."
How much does the reaction matter to you? I know it matters to us, the critics and audience, but forget us for a second. Does it matter to you?
"I’m at a point with art where I only really care if the piece is more than the sum of its parts. I’m lucky because what I make either succeeds or fails. Some people undoubtedly would tell you that’s why it’s crap art, but that’s the way it is. I feel sorry for Abstract Expressionists—how do they know when to go home?"
"All I need is to make my point and get something more out of it than what I put in. If something extra has happened between the idea and realizing it, that’s a win. This week I surrounded my Cinderella’s carriage with a ring of paparazzi, and the flash bulbs made the shadows leap around the room, and the pumpkin looked like it was lit by flickering candles, so I’m good. I never saw that coming."
"My satisfaction level is independent of your opinion. If I feel a piece has worked, there’s nothing you can say that will take that away. And the flip side is, if I know it’s failed, there’s nothing you can say that would make it OK."
This project, in particular, is so destination-based that you will really rely on audience reaction. You have always been good at controlling your message, but did joining social media teach you anything that you liked? Or disliked?
"The last show I did was at the Bristol Museum and a lot of people came. In fact, the queue was the most interesting thing about it. I don’t know if people will show up this time, but I made a few pieces with the audience in mind: the Cinderella sculpture is only complete when surrounded by a gawping crowd snapping photos. The audience is the punchline. Likewise, the killer whale is crap in real life. It’s only good when you pose behind it pulling a face and send a picture to your mate."
What are you hoping visitors take away from Dismaland?
"A souvenir programme, three T-shirts and a mug. Each. This project isn’t sponsored or government aided; it’s self-financing."
+ JUXTAPOZ EXCLUSIVE: AN INTERVIEW WITH BANKSY ABOUT DISMALAND:
"The so-called 'Bemusement Park' in Weston-Super-Mare, includes a Jimmy Savile punch-and-judy show, and a fire pit to burn Jeffrey Archer novels."
+ Banksy bans Disney lawyers from his 'Dismaland' theme park:
'Mark Brown, an art correspondent for The Guardian, called it “sometimes hilarious, sometimes eye-opening and occasionally breathtakingly shocking.” Mike Nudelman, the graphics editor at Business Insider, described it as “bad and boring” and likened Banksy to the director Michael Bay. “Dismaland Is Not Interesting, and Neither Is Banksy,” declared a Huffington Post Canada headline on a story that concluded: “It’s bad. It’s bad, and it’s uninteresting.'
+ Banksy and the Problem With Sarcastic Art:
"Let's face it; Dismaland is a bad pun. It is, at best, a tweet sent after being disappointed by Space Mountain, a Facebook status bashed out having paid €7 for a soggy hot dog while your infant child screams in horror at weird human Goofy. But ham-fisted puns and visual metaphors have been Banksy's MO ever since he first stencilled a rat onto a flyover. Snogging policemen (yay for gay rights)! A man with a bandana throwing a bouquet of flowers instead of a Molotov (yay for peace)! A robotic arm reaching out of an ATM and attacking a little girl (money is bad)!"
+ Dismaland Is a Smug, Cliched Monument to Banksy's Dated Agenda:
'An anarchic amusement park by street artist Banksy that mocked capitalism and consumer culture has brought an economic boom to a faded British seaside town... Local officials say the attraction, which closes Sunday after five weeks, drew more than 150,000 people to the southwest England town of 75,000. Fans from around the world snapped up all available tickets — limited to 4,000 a day — for the event billed as a “festival of art, amusements and entry-level anarchism.” A final concert Friday night featured performances by De La Soul, Pussy Riot and Blur singer Damon Albarn. Tourism body Visit Somerset said the exhibition had brought 20 million pounds ($30 million) to a region that has struggled since foreign vacations replaced local seaside holidays for many Britons."'
+ Banksy's 'Dismaland' theme park brings $30M boost to U.K. town:
"Dismaland is a nightmare version of Disneyland or a “family theme park unsuitable for children”"
+ You sure wanna go to Dismaland ?:
"Over 300 posters by guerilla artists from Banksy’s Dismaland have appeared across the capital’s train carriages and bus stops to mark the first day of the DSEI Arms Fair, a controversial event at the ExCel Centre, where over 1,500 exhibitors sell deadly weapons ranging from rifles to tanks. The Dismaland exhibition has a “museum of cruel designs” which contains art about the arms trade, so curator Gavin Grindon said the protests about the DSEI fair were “a natural progression”.
+ Banksy‘s Dismaland comes to London: Protest posters plaster city:
"The English seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare is the kind of place where all the bridesmaids are plus-sized and a scrim of scum freights the wind and the mud on the beach. With typical aplomb, Banksy saw the opportunity and invited “everyone from Weston” to “take the opportunity to once more stand in a puddle of murky water eating cold chips to the sound of crying children.”"
+ Mischief Is Rampant: A Day at Banksy’s Dismaland:
'Britain's most depressing theme park has closed its doors to the public and will be dismantled and relocated to Calais to provide shelter for refugees, Banksy has revealed. Dismaland – described by the street artist as "a family attraction that acknowledges inequality and impending catastrophe" – enjoyed an extremely successful five-week run in Weston-super-Mare. His installation featured ponds with motor boats full of destitute refugees, a mangled Cinderella and disgruntled stewards carrying bunches of balloons labelled "I'm an imbecile".'
+ Banksy's Dismaland theme park to help refugees in Calais:
"There is nothing joyful about the treatment of immigrants, economic hardships, death, and suffering. Banksy’s pop-up exhibition is a burst of reality in the most unsuitable form which makes it even more effective. Surely it is hopeless and depressive, but our social surroundings are not much different at all if we decide to take off our Disney glasses and take a real look at the world we live in."
+ THE REAL MESSAGE OF DISMALAND - HOPELESSNESS AND DEPRESSION OF WESTERN SOCIETY:
"On the list of places I never want to visit, this hellish land conceived of and curated by Banksy, your favorite anonymous street artist, is pretty high. The installation, Dismaland, is housed inside a defunct waterpark once known as the Tropicana. It’s theme park in the most literal sense—a heavy-handed doom and gloom play on Disneyland, complete with a grim reaper riding in a bumper car and a dead Cinderella tumbling out of her over-turned pumpkin chariot. There’s also an Orca jumping out of a toilet because, art. It’ll cost you £3 to partake in the satirical wreckage, which is on view until Sept. 28 in Weston-super-Mare, England. Or you can just look at Colossal’s photos and then go on about your day."
+ Banksy Made A Theme Park And It’s Terrifying:
"The trailer is a darker, more morbid version of a Disneyland commercial, with a family of four packing up and driving to the unique attraction. Instead, this family is bored with everyday life and seeks fulfillment in something far more bleak. With sad staffers moping around and murky green waters as its centerpiece, a voiceover describes the theme park as “the happiest place on Earth.” The dilapidated park houses exhibits from about 60 artists, including work by Banksy himself in addition to those by Escif, Maskull Lasserre, Kate McDowell, Paco Pomet, Dietrich Wegner, Michael Beitz, Brock Davis and Ronit Baranga."
+ Watch: Banksy Releases Grim Trailer for ‘Dismaland’ Theme Park:
"There are many serious issues that Banksy raises through the art on show at Dismaland, from consumerism and domestic violence to the mediocrity of life. But what strikes me is that he must have spent a vast amount of money on putting Dismaland together. And what do we get? Vapid social commentary that we’ve heard before and probably agree with."
+ Is Dismaland Really That Dismal?:
"A lot of people forget that fairy tales weren’t always sugar and spice and everything nice. Hundreds of years ago, they were cautionary tales meant to teach young children about the dangers of the world. Internationally renowned street artist Banksy has worked to take back a little of that reality from the gilded cage of the Disney machine with the six week installation Dismaland in Somerset, England."
+ TAKE A TOUR OF BANKSY’S DISMALAND WITH CHANNEL 4 NEWS:
'This also isn’t the first time Banksy has trolled Disney. Back in 2006, Banksy inserted a life-sized inflatable doll dressed as a Guantanamo Bay detainee (orange jumpsuit, black hood, handcuffs) in the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. According to BBC News, the figure remained there for 90 minutes before being removed, and a spokesman for Banksy claimed “the stunt was intended to highlight the plight of terror suspects at the controversial detention centre in Cuba."'
+ Inside ‘Dismaland’: Banksy’s Sinister Disney-Trolling Theme Park Reportedly Opening This Weekend:
'“I loved the Tropicana as a kid, so getting to throw these doors open again is a real honour,” Banksy told the BBC. The artist said that that the exhibit also involves audience participation, “A dead princess is only complete when surrounded by gawping crowds with their cameras out, or the opportunity to photograph yourself pulling an amazed expression when a killer whale leaps from a toilet,”the artist said.'
+ Inside Banksy’s creepy new exhibit ‘Dismaland’:
+ White Write Right White Light, like... http://globalsl.org/why-unicef-and-save-the-children-are-against-you-caring-for-orphans/