Banksy is a name synonymous with controversy. As an international symbol of dark humour and ambiguity, his newest stunt is ‘Dismaland’ – a sinister twist on the perfect, sparkling Disney we all grew up with. I first really experienced Banksy through his 2010 documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop”. This was exceptionally well-received (96% on rotten tomatoes), and there are thousands of posts online about the authenticity of Mr Brainwash, which is just the beginning of Banksy’s world of irony and unsettling mystery.
We have so far seen some glimpses into the world of Dismaland – Channel 4 have produced a short clip with their reporter inside, and there are various images circulating social media. Banksy is not the sole contributer, as inside there are many world-renowned artists’ work, from Damien Hirst to Bill Barminski. They all discuss social issues, for instance the huge orca leaping from a toilet through a hoop; seemingly a reference to SeaWorld and perhaps even a nod towards the Blackfish documentary which revealed these horrors. There is a small model of a town, similar to those typically in museums, with skyscrapers, cars and tiny people, but this is supposed to portray the aftermath of a riot, and the only signs of life are the police.
One of the most interesting pieces is Cinderella in an upturned white carriage with fallen horses, seemingly in a ‘car crash’. This princess lays sprawls, spilling out of the crashed carriage, whilst barrages of photographers take pictures of her. This piece especially seems to garner the most controversy as it seems to eerily echo Princess Diana’s untimely death. However, I also think it could be viewed from the most simplistic angle; discussing the media intrusion into celebrities’ lives, the unquenchable thirst for ‘the best story and photo’ with no actual care or thought of these people as humans. Although Banksy likely did want to portray Diana, I think it is a very poignant piece that even without context displays a very clear and potent message.
When I heard of the ‘boat game’ inside Dismaland, I was in awe. As an extremely political artist, Banksy has managed to speak about the very important issues that plague our society using just his artwork. Dismaland features a boat game in which people drive boats huddled with migrants, having to avoid the dead bodies floating in the water and boats with guns. In exposing people to the reality of situations in places like Calais in such a light-hearted way seems to make it more real, and hopefully create more awareness about the migrant crisis.
It seems as though around every corner in Dismaland, there is another powerful and dark piece of work, such as Hirst’s unicorn in formaldehyde, a nod to his early pieces. The Grim Reaper rides the dodgems at this ‘bemusement park’, a woman is attacked by a huge flock of seagulls as she sits on the bench. All are just small parts of what seems to be an incredible experience of politics, perspective and poignant artwork. The tickets were supposed to be released on the 21st August, but the website crashed after receiving over six million views. The calendar itself was just an image, which left many wondering if the difficulty to get tickets was an ironic statement.
After the previous structure, ‘Tropicana’ was closed in 2000, this new transient exhibition is sure to attract thousands of people to Weston-Super-mare. With the price as low as £3 per ticket – far cheaper than seeing many of these artists’ work in galleries – Dismaland will definitely give a huge surge to the seaside town’s economy and tourism, which even if you are not a fan, is an extremely positive outcome of Banksy’s work.