WESTON-SUPER-MARE — Inside the walls of a derelict seaside swimming resort in Weston-super-Mare, UK, mysterious construction over the last month—including a dingy looking Disney-like castle and a gargantuan rainbow-colored pinwheel tangled in plastic—suggested something big was afoot. Suspicion and anticipation surrounding the unusual activity attributed to fabled artist and provocateur Banksy has reached a Willy Wonka-esque fervor. Well, if Banksy’s your bag, continue fervoring. If not, there’s more than a few reasons to continue reading.
The spectacle has since been revealed to be a pop-up art exhibition in the form of an apocalyptic theme park titled Dismaland (“The UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction”) that will be open to the public for five weeks.
The event has all the hallmark details of a traditional Banksy event from a shroud of ultimate secrecy (the event area was plastered in notices designating it as filming location for a movie titled Gray Fox) to general themes of apocalypse, anti-consumerism, and anti-corporate messages. However there’s one major deviation: the emphasis of Dismalanded is largely on other artists’ work instead of Banksy himself.
So just what’s hidden inside the walls of this derelict seaside resort? A demented assortment of bizarre and macabre artworks from no less than 50 artists from around the world including Damien Hirst, Bill Barminski, Caitlin Cherry, Polly Morgan, Josh Keyes, Mike Ross, David Shrigley, Bäst, and Espo. In addition, Banksy is showing 10 artworks of his own.
Dismaland also has artworks by numerous artists featured here on Colossal over the last few years including pieces by Escif, Maskull Lasserre, Kate McDowell, Paco Pomet, Dietrich Wegner, Michael Beitz, Brock Davis, Ronit Baranga, and others. From the event’s official brochure:
Are you looking for an alternative to the soulless sugar-coated banality of the average family day out? Or just somewhere cheaper. Then this is the place for you—a chaotic new world where you can escape from mindless escapism. Instead of a burger stall, we have a museum. In place of a gift shop we have a library, well, we have a gift shop as well.
Bring the whole family to come and enjoy the latest addition to our chronic leisure surplus—a bemusement park. A theme park who’s big theme is: theme parks should have bigger themes…
This event contains adult themes, distressing imagery, extended use of strobe lighting, smoke effects and swearing. The following items are strictly prohibited: knives, spraycans, illegal drugs, and lawyers from the Walt Disney corporation.
In addition to art there are a few rides, completely impossible fair games, interactive artworks, random live performances and unexpected spectacles happening throughout the day. The entire exhibition is staffed by morose Dismaland employees who seem completely uninterested in being helpful or informative. Getting in requires an uncomfortably awkward NSA-esque screening, and even trying to find the exit required a near herculean effort.
I had the honor of helping curate a particularly fun part of Dismaland: a program of 24 short films shown on a massive outdoor cinema that will play on a loop day and night. Films include shorts by Santiago Grasso & Patricio Plaza, Kirsten Lepore, The Mercadantes, Ze Frank, Adrien M. & Claire B., Black Sheep Films, and Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared.
Dismaland is open to the public from August 22 through September 27th, 2015 and information about pre-booked and at-the-gate tickets is available here. There’s also a series of events including a show by Pussy Riot and Massive Attack on September 25th.
I think it goes without saying, but if you have the means, get to the UK.