Like all those who came before me I’d seen about 40,000 instagram filtered variants of Banksy’s seaside attraction Dismaland before I walked beneath the Gothic typed sign. I expected the castle, the Mermaid, the freaky wheel and figured these as big scale photographic opportunities with little more than a single dimension of thinking.
What I hadn’t expected was how quickly you’re drawn into the wondrous world of delight and despair and the sheer level of clever detail created in all the miniature seafront dystopia. From the moment you walk up the deserted beach you’re hit by the eerie fairground music, just a couple of octants different from the original but enough to immediately set an slight unease. Layered on top of this is the creepy announcements running through the tannoy, posters declaring “the more I get to know people, the more I love snakes”. The non rides and the sulky staff is a strange mix of off putting and genuinely hilarious (until I really did want to know where the toilet was). The full atmosphere of the place is as intoxicating as it’s elderly uncle, Disneyland and a whole lot smarter.
The curation of the gallery and work from 60 or so artists is key and near perfectly executed, each individual piece has strengths but teamed together the impact is massive (much like an artistic impression of The Avengers). Although subtle, the unnamed artwork was paramount to the jarring atmosphere of the park. In an age where the name of an artist directly reflects the cost of a creation whether it’s a fleck of dust or a 10 foot sculpture made of gold the fact you could walk past a Damien Hirst and not know it was a reflection of the unsettling nature that’s apparent throughout. Other creations included Death riding dodgems, and how could you not like the weird unsettling thought of a character as ominous as Death having a childish moment on a fairground ride.
Banksy, or at least our known persona of Banksy – the observational satirical comic is apparent everywhere. Figuratively and literally. Rumours started flying around that Banksy was in fact present in the park, hiding in plain sight. I wonder if I’d bumped into him. Regardless of whether or not I had the pleasure of interacting with the creative genius, his name will still be ringing in my ear as I’m sure it will be for anyone who had the opportunity to go.
If you thought Banksy’s park wasn’t interesting enough well the news that parts of the bemusement park are being sent to the jungle refugee camp in Calais to build shelter ought to change your mind.