Art provocateur Banksy has transformed a derelict English seafront lido called the Tropicana into his largest art project to date, a phantasmagoric installation called Dismaland — with the help of artists including Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer.
Although Banksy’s Dismaland nakedly skewers whimsical Disney iconography and theme park culture, the artist told The Guardian that his show wasn’t a direct takedown of Disneyland. “I banned any imagery of Mickey Mouse from the site,” he said.
Instead, Banksy envisioned Dismaland, constructed under deep secrecy and entirely self-financed without government assistance, as a showcase for his own defiant work, as well as that of “the best artists I could imagine, apart from the two who turned me down.” That includes not just Hirst and Holzer, but 56 other artists, including Mike Ross, Jimmy Cauty, Bill Barminski, Caitlin Cherry, Polly Morgan, Josh Keyes, Bäst, and Espo.
In addition, a daily program of short films includes animated pieces by filmmakers that include Santiago Grasso, Patricio Plaza, Kirsten Lepore, Becky Sloan, and Joseph Pelling.
Not that Disneyland doesn’t suffer a swipe or two at Banksy’s playground, described as a “family theme park unsuitable for children [that] offers an escape from mindless escapism.” A wavy, disfigured analogue of The Little Mermaid’s Ariel floats in front of a decrepit castle that evokes The Magic Kingdom, while Banksy’s horrific crash of Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage invites exhibit attendees to participate, paparazzi-style, by taking their own voyeuristic pictures.
In fact, the whole experience is designed to skewer the experience of attending a theme park, from the broken online e-ticket system to the theme park’s employees, who are deliberately rude and morose.
One of Dismaland’s participating artists, Californian Jeff Gillette, told CNN: “You gotta go in there and experience and think and wonder and maybe get mad or maybe laugh. That’s a deeper entertainment than I think any other theme park would have.”
There are also anti-corporate and anti-capitalist stabs at political and economic controversies like predatory loans, immigration paranoia, government corruption, police violence, and more.
The 2.5-acre Dismaland marks the elusive, conscientious artist’s first UK show since 2009’s “Banksy vs. Bristol Museum” exhibit, whose massive crowds, numbering 300,000 visitors over 12 weeks, are likely to be replicated at his newest show which opens August 22 and continues through September 27. Tickets are £3 and more information can be found at Dismaland.co.uk and the park’s Instagram. Banksy discussed the project in this interview with Juxtapoz.
Fittingly, according to that site, “legal representatives of the Walt Disney Corporation” are strictly prohibited from the park, along with spray paint, marker pens, and knives.