IT IS, perhaps, the Most Tragical Place on Earth. Or maybe its better anti-motto would be: “Where screams come true.”
It is the dark and bizarro version of Disneyland. And this time, Banksy just might have topped himself. The Bristol-born social-commentary artist has confirmed that he is behind “Dismaland,” the massive five-week art exhibit on his cherished Tropicana home turf that reminds us, in piece after piece, that life isn’t always a fairy tale.
The Dismaland site says that the “bemusement park” is being mounted in “legendary Weston-super-Mare,” but that might as well say “super night-Mare.” There is a world in which Cinderella’s coach is cruelly chased by paparazzi; where the trained killer whale leaps from loo to a loop for our entertainment, with toilet bowl as its public fishbowl; and where you can heat yourself up around the ceremonial Jeffrey Archer Memorial Fire Pit, as the novels of the scandal-plagued pol/bestselling author (aka “Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare”) are burned so that we might smile especially warmly.
And this isn’t just a Banksy production. As you stroll the grounds around the dilapidated castle, you may come upon such creatives as portraitist Nettie Wakefield, who will render in telling detail the back of your head (“surprisingly revealing”); “militant feminist” writer Julie Burchill will twist the standard puppet show with “Punch and Julie,” complete with takedowns of Jimmy Savile and “Fifty Shades of Grey”; and American “furniture twerker” Michael Beitz will let you pull up one of his surreal seats.
Then, to enhance your sense of sociopolitical play, there’s the turf where golf meets gulf, on the “oil caliphate-themed” crazy miniature-golf course.
Besides the scores of such artists as Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer, there will also be performances by such acts as spoken-word poet/rapper Kate Tempest (a Comic Riffs favorite), Run the Jewels, Pussy Riot and Massive Attack.
And because this exhibit inverts a Disney-esque utopia — you might call it a “Distopia” — the show makes sure to remind that Dismaland contains “uneven floor surfaces, extensive use of strobe lighting, imagery unsuitable for small children and swearing.” And Banksy-land prohibits such dangers as spray paint, knives and “legal representatives of the Walt Disney Corporation.”
“In essence, it’s a festival of art, amusements and entry-level anarchism,” Banksy told the Guardian. “I guess you’d say its a theme park whose big theme is: Theme parks should have bigger themes.”
Banksy hasn’t had a major exhibit in years, and this social art-piece is not only one of his largest; this “alternative to sugar-coated tedium” also will likely long stand as one of his most memorable. Especially if you’re one of the lucky few who manages to get tickets, as interest spiked and the Dismaland website groaned under the demand:
And of course, parkgoers are forewarned: “Absolutely no refunds under any circumstances!”
After today’s “locals only” day, the exhibit will be open everyday from Aug. 22 to Sept. 27.