Is Dismaland really that dismal?

Eleanor Mills, 09.09.2015
It may be fun but Banksy is preaching to the converted
There has been a lot written about Banksy’s Dismaland. What can I add?
In an interview with the Guardian, Banksy described his latest venture as “a theme park for the disenfranchised, with franchises available”.

Dismaland is meant to be depressing. Pre-booked tickets are only £5, but expect to queue for an hour. Once inside, past the security guards hired to give you a bit of a hard time and the bored-looking Dismaland attendant staff with Mickey Mouse ears on, it’s time to survey what there is to do.
Many reviews have said that it’s not fun, but I thought it was.
You might have seen pictures of Cinderella slumped out of her overturned carriage, with a hoard of paparazzi figures flashing cameras, or remote-control boats carrying dolls of Syrian refugees. And you may have seen Banksy’s cute representation of the horsemeat scandal where pretty coloured horses on a fairground carousel turn into butchering meat.
The deliberately rubbish rides, games you can never win at and cynical short films are all very clever. There’s even a couple of men in their 60s who approach people in the queues saying they want to shut the place down because of the damage it’s doing to the area. Then you look at their badge: the Notional Trust.
There are many serious issues that Banksy raises through the art on show at Dismaland, from consumerism and domestic violence to the mediocrity of life.
But what strikes me is that he must have spent a vast amount of money on putting Dismaland together. And what do we get? Vapid social commentary that we’ve heard before and probably agree with.

All Banksy has made is a theme-park out of everything he’s said in the past. By creating an immersive art experience, he isn’t bucking the trend – he’s following it. People go there to be “in” a Banksy.
Dismaland is not daring. In his Guardian interview, he said: “Graffiti is an important and valid art form; it would be a shame if it was killed by venture capitalism.”
He’s killed it. He’s become the establishment. I just hope he uses any money he makes with Dismaland to help some refugees.


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Maurice Davies
MA Member
Partner, Museum Consultancy
09.09.2015, 17:31
Well, I don't agree with that. 'Vapid social commentary' successfully engaged this 55 year old leftie and his just-graduated-in-politics son till kicking-out time. Much longer than I would've spent in most museums, or at a political rally. And it seemed to be working for most of the rest of the relatively varied audience, too. Of course the establishment assimilates the successful radicals, that's how capitalism contains dissent, but Banksy's still one of the good guys, bringing social justice and socially engaged art to a wide audience.