Anonymous street artist Banksy’s top-secret amusement park has opened at an abandoned British seaside resort at Weston-super-Mare, UK. Billed a “bemusement park,” and designed to drip with irony, the pop-up exhibition is built by a lido that has been derelict since 2000.
An austere, weatherbeaten castle straddles a green, overgrown moat, from which emerges a half-sunken police car transformed into a children’s slide. The glum employees wear hot pink jackets stamped with ‘Dismal’ on the back, with apathetic – even insolent – attitudes to match.
“Dismaland is a festival of art, amusement, and entry-level anarchism,” declares the website, which bears a strikingly Disney-like logo. The 10,200 square foot park features the work of 58 artists handpicked for their black humor by Banksy himself.
The artist’s customary anti-consumerist and anti-authoritarian jibes run throughout the artwork, from the Grim Reaper steering a too-small bumper car to a terrifying carousel featuring skinned horses.
A masked butcher in bloodied work clothes wields a machete while sitting on cardboard boxes marked ‘Lasagne.’ Most bone-chilling is Cinderella’s overturned chariot surrounded by flashbulb-wielding paparazzi, a scene recalling Princess Diana’s death by car crash.
Contrary to speculation, Banksy insists that the amusement park is not a lampooning of Disneyland. “I banned any imagery of Mickey Mouse from the site,” he told The Guardian. “It’s a showcase for the best artists I could imagine, apart from the two who turned me down.”
Nevertheless, all staff are kitted in Mickey Mouse ears. A mural suspended precariously above the polluted lagoon features a corpulent man sitting at one end of a heaving banquet table, a poor family at the other. Meanwhile, a smiley face-bearing loan office lends money to children at a 5000 percent interest rate.
A gallery showcases more of this sarcastic morosity, such as a depiction of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster aboard a car full of insurgents brandishing guns. A bad-tempered Star Wars storm trooper skulks around the exhibitions. Meanwhile, a cloud sculpture with a rope ladder presents an intriguing commentary on mortality.
With admissions priced at just £3 ($4.73), Dismaland, on view until September 27, promises to be “cheaper” than “the average family day out.”
Dismaland has since been dismantled and sent to Calais in the wake of the ongoing European refugee crisis. Currently 100’s of migrants are stuck at the border of Calais as they hope to get into England.
In its brief tenure, Dismaland attracted 150,000 visitors, selling out each day, to the run down site of Weston Super-Mare despite Banksy himself describing it as “crap”.
“It’s ambitious, but it’s also crap. I think there’s something very poetic and British about all that.” Banksy said speaking to the Sunday Times.