Last week, I managed to secure weekend tickets to Banksy's new art exhibition in Weston-super-Mare (near Bristol, where Banksy's based): Dismaland. This new Banksy exhibition has been widely-reported in the media and tickets have been sought-after. The art exhibition takes inspiration from theme parks, and it's not difficult to see that Disney is the brunt of the jokes here. The typography and name of the attraction, the fact that its staff wear ears that similar to mouse ears, and some of the attractions (such as the castle) inside are close to what is seen at the Disney theme parks. The exhibits inside the park did not poke fun at Disney but poked fun at and challenged society. (Note before you continue reading and scrolling below: Don't view this post if you're easily offended or easily-disturbed.)
As we struggled to find a parking space for about half an hour and then had to queue for fourty-five minutes in the wet weather (we did have the first slot of tickets, which was at 11:00, but I think people in the later slots queued early), we did feel pretty dismal.
At least I did not have to queue up for three or more hours like the Banksy exhibition in Bristol Museum in 2009, but when we arrived at 10:15 in the morning, people were already in queue for the walk-in. A notice put up mentioned that the ticket sales for the walk-in group would not be open until 15:00. Perhaps some of those people took their place at 7:00 in the morning.
The guy on the right hasn't yet been told that smiling is forbidden obviously
As our queue snaked around quickly to the entrance, we came to the entrance of the park. The staff we saw at the entrance were looking very dismal, frowning, being rude, and telling people not to smile. The first task was to get through security just inside the door. This consisted of fake security and depressed-looking and rude staff. I saw a pair of handcuffs and hand-scanners, CCTV cameras, walk-through scanners, and computers made of cardboard.
Inside the park, it was already very busy. I think that they just let everyone who had a ticket in. I reminded myself of the 'South Park' episode about the 'Line Ride'.
The souvenir programme seller ran out of programmes
Something that I noticed was that a lot of adults were bringing a lot of children and babies in strollers. There's not a lot of room and uneven surfaces meant that these just got in the way. Also, the subjects in the bemusement park are not really suitable for children (in my view). Well, I don't think I'd bring my offspring there as I think a few of the exhibits would have frightened me, and I was never easily frightened.
Abandonment and disuse was one common theme around the bemusement park. Scattered around were various of those old children's toys (the kind you put a coin in and it moves or plays music) abandoned and broken. This is disturbing like some post-apocalyptic world. Music was also played throughout the theme park, but the music was 'broken' and also sounded disturbing. On occassion, the speakers would 'squeak' and also a voice would mumble some wit about society. This seemed a little bit like "Big Brother" (or "The Prisoner" 1960s television series) in some ways.
Dance of Death
One of our first visits was another queue to get into a sheltered exhibition room, where we waited to watch "The Dance of Death". This involved the grim reaper (a.k.a, Death) on a bumper car (US English) / dodgem (British English). Disco music by the BeeGees "Stayin' Alive" was playing as disco lights lit up the floor and the grim reaper's car kept bumping into the wall; I was worried his scyth was going to come off the top of the car (the electric pole) and go into the crowd. Now, I found this moving spectacle slightly frightening even as an adult.
Caroline McCarthy uses everyday items to create artwork
I had a wander around the other artwork on display in this area. This consisted of work by Banksy, Damien Hirst, and several other artists whose work was showcased.
A frown, Damien Hirst's beach ball suspended above blades, Paco Pomet's funny cookie monster with terrorists, unknown
One room contained the 'Aftermath Displacement Principle' by Jimmy Cauty. This piece shows a model village in a moment of civil unrest, and there's a lot of police cars and ambulances attending scenes of crime. The lights flash, and noise is of sirens from this installation.
Jimmy Cauty ADP piece and Lush
One of the interesting pieces in the room (before I exited) was a snake eating a famous mouse. This is a Banksy piece.
Next up, I went into the tent showcasing 'gothic' art. Inside the tent were a large selection of artwork. Inside were grotesche wedding cakes with teeth, stuffed rabbits, tin cans that looked made of flesh, a stuffed unicorn, and a large selection of dishes with teeth and fingers.
Ronit Baranga's plate feast; Damien Hirst's unicorn
The game areas were also a dig at the state of the world and perception. One featured a take on the duck fishing game, and the ducks were swimming in tar with a large sculpture of a bird covered in tar. Another featured 'Topple the Anvil' and people queued up to throw small plastic balls at the anvils in attempt to knock them over.
Other items around the theme park showcase the unfairness of society, which is depicted in the below street art piece featuring politicans.
One interesting installation featured migrant ships in the sea off what looked like the white cliffs of Dover. These speedboats kept bumping into each other and the sides of the pool. There were also some migrant bodies in the pool.
Banksy migrant boats
One of the most prominent installations at Dismaland was the two semi cabs placed together with twisted metal tubes. This installation, by Mike Ross, is known as 'Big Rig Jig'.
Mike Ross 'Big Rig Jig'
The working carousel also had an art exhibit on it. The subject of this installation was the horse meat scandal that hit the UK a year or so ago. A butcher is sitting on the carousel with a carousel horse hanging up like a piece of meat behind him, and the boxes that the butcher is sitting on read 'Lasagne'. A lot of the products that contained horse meat were minced beef, such as lasagne. I believe that this is another creation by Banksy.
Horse meat scandal
One of the funniest installations features a subject that anyone who has ever been to the seaside knows about: seagulls. There are countless stories about seagulls attacking people or stealing their food right from their hands. This installation features a woman on a bench being attacked by the birds while one stands nearby.
Banksy - woman attacked by seagulls
One artist's work was featured in a kiosk for loans.
Another area showed Punch & Judy puppet shows, but these were not for children.
Dismaland also contains a giant pinwheel sticking out of a giant sandcastle, which was commissioned by Banksy. Ben Long constructed a stallion out of scaffolding poles.
Ben Long's stallion and giant pinwheel
And around the pond, which was also designed by Banksy, was another dig at the inequality of society.
Un-f--k the system
On the other part of the pond, a police armoured vehicle is transformed into a water feature with a slide.
While we waited in another queue to get inside the castle, we saw balloons being handed out by staff. The balloons read "I am an inbecile."
The main feature of Dismaland is the fantasy castle, which looks like it has seen better days. In front of the castle is a statue of a mermaid. Both are Banksy contributions.
Inside the castle was another Banksy installation. When we walked in, Cinderella was showing on a television screen, and she was leaving the wedding in the pumpkin carriage. Inside was the wrecked pumpkin carriage and carnage while the paparazzi did nothing except stand and take photographs.
At the opposite end of the park is another Banksy sculpture featuring a whale jumping out of a toilet into a small pool.
Next up was an exhibition labelled 'Cruel', which took an age to get in to see. The exhibition featured items relating to today's society about various government and company issues that cannot be trusted. Next to this was a library.
Around the corner was a fire pit where books are burned.
Visitors could take selfies of themselves surrounded by a white wall.
Last but not least, we exited through the git shop where more souvenir guides and t-shirts were being sold. Unfortunately, they did not have any postcards for sale. "Exit through the gift shop" was the name of a past Banksy exhibition.
How do you get tickets? I read on the website a week ago when tickets would next become available. When tickets were due to go on sale, the website 'crashed'. I believe that this was a ploy to the dismal experience, so I kept checking for tickets throughout the day. (There are a couple of other areas in the theme park that were not working quite right, so it is all a part of the 'dismal' experience.) I must have been one of the first to see the tickets when they became available because I could have selected any time slot for any day.
I read on the website (http://dismaland.co.uk) tickets are going on sale for next week on Wednesday. Also keep in mind that someone has set up fake tickets on other websites, so do buy your tickets through http://dismaland.co.uk only and do not get caught out.
Leaving you with a face that sums up the experience of Dismaland
Tickets can also be purchased on the day, but those who were in the queue would have got there very early (before 10:15), and they were faced to wait until 15:00 when they let some of them in. At that point, it is a one-out-one-in policy. However, the park was very full when I visited, so it can accommodate a lot. Bear in mind that getting decent photos is a little difficult as the park was very busy, and we had to wait around a lot to see some of the other exhibitions.