If you’ve heard enough about Dismaland, exit this post.
But I was tickled when I learned my mom — who is not an art world hipster — recently paid a night-time visit to Banksy’s much talked-about parody of a theme park.
Mom lives in my hometown of Bath, which is not far from the site of Dismaland, a town called Weston-Super-Mare.
Bath is near Bristol, where Banksy grew up, and like him, my family went on day trips to Weston-Super-Mare when we were children because it was the nearest beach resort. But it is a long way from fantasyland. We knew it as Weston-Super-Mud, due not only to the frequent rain on the West coast of England but also because when the tide goes out, it leaves a “dismally” sludgy beach.
Anyway, mom went with family friends and waited an hour in line to get in and spent two hours inside, and this is her reaction:
“There was lots to see in that time, installations, the castle, video screen, gallery and various tents. We could wander at leisure, except in the tents, when we were hurried along by morose staff with Mickey mouse headgear.”
“One of the best things was a figure of death hurtling around in a dodgem car seemingly trying to get into the crowd. Sadly I didn’t manage to get a photo of him as I was in the wrong place for a good shot. I did photograph lots of stuff, but it was dark and the flash didn’t seem to help (or it was my poor ability?). I think David (Dyas, a family friend) might have had some better ones.”
“Another good installation was a large model of city and land scape in a state of desolation and full of police cars with flashing lights. Wasn’t sure if it was a dig about being in a “police state” or post-militant action.”
“Oh, and in one of the tents there was an overturned pumpkin coach and horse, with Cinderella half out of the coach and all around the paparazzi flashing cameras – a reference to (Princess) Diana, I think, and the media.”
“There was a lot of good stuff, but we all agreed we were underwhelmed, considering all the hype.”
Dismaland has received mixed reviews. But in the event you are in the area and wonder whether to visit before it closes at the end of this month, consider it in the light of this critique of Disneyland.
As writer Heather Havrilesky reflects, “Sometimes it takes going Full Mickey to recognize that Dismaland is real, and resistance is futile.”
Listen up to this DnA interview about Dismaland with Mark Brown, Arts Correspondent for the Guardian newspaper. We also talk to Ron Walker, reporter for The Weston Mercury, who describes what it was like to experience the story of a century in the sleepy British town.