On the seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, England, thousands of visitors flock to a newly opened “bemusement” park, Dismaland. Called to be “unsuitable for small children”, Bristol-based street artist Banksy’s latest pop-up art installation is the combination of works by 58 artists and Banksy himself. It’s arranged as a dystopian and sinister mock-up of Disneyland, complete with fair games, a carousel, and a towering castle.
Graffiti artist Banksy has always been famous for his stencils of irreverent, often satirical images of apes, rats, and cultural icons on streets, walls, and bridges around the world, from Los Angeles to Gaza, to Melbourne, despite the illegality of his actions. He first began as a graffiti and stencil artist in the 1980s with the belief that graffiti was not just a form of low-level dissent, but could be “used to start revolutions and to stop wars.” In his art, Banksy explores social and political themes such as anti-capitalism, anti-war, and anarchism.
For example, in this work depicting a couple embracing, Banksy criticizes how modern society has become so absorbed into technology that to the point where we are blind to our loved ones and the very things right in front of us.
In another artwork, Banksy depicts a lady falling with a shopping cart, condemning capitalism and how people have fallen senselessly into the cycle of consumerism.
For a month before its opening, the public was unaware of the project. When asked about the mysterious construction, owners of the site claimed that the area had been rented out to a film company called Grey Fox, and that a film set was being built.
When Dismaland officially opened to the public on August 22, crowds swarmed to see what Banksy had in store, and were appalled. Several of the pieces spoke directly to the ideals of modern society and the negative effects of consumerism not only on humanity but also on the environment.
A presumably dead Cinderella hangs out of her crashed coach and is blinded by the flash of the paparazzi’s’ cameras. This is an allusion to the death of Princess Diana of Wales, who died in a car crash after being consistently pursued by the paparazzi. A killer whale jumps out of a toilet and through a hula-hoop, perhaps criticizing the marine life industry and pointing a finger at SeaWorld. In a fountain, several children are huddled into miniature boats with other boats trailing behind them with guns pointed, making a powerful connection to the ongoing migrant crisis. And the Grim Reaper twists and whirls on a bumper car, representing how death can suddenly pick you up and take you away.
Overall, the park has proven to be shocking, frightening, and even horrifying, but it serves as an effective eye-opener to the behind story of the glamour of capitalism and modern society. Would you visit Dismaland?
– Seiyeon Park (’17)