Dismaland: Wince-Inducing Yet Lacking Banksy’s Usual Cutting Satire?

It emerged in July that Disneyland Paris is allegedly charging German and British tourists up to 15% more than French visitors to the park. Behind the sparkly wholesomeness is, as usual, a faceless corporate conglomerate hyper-capitalist agenda at work.

It’s timely then that Banksy has created his own satire of the brand – if you’re a lawyer reading this, it’s definitely *not* based on Disneyland. Nuh uh. Nope – in the former seafront lido of Weston-Super-Mare, called Dismaland, its sign in black, Third-Reich style font. Inside, a very familiar fairy castle lies in ruins, Cinderella lies lifeless in the car-crash of her pumpkin carriage. A grim reaper rides the dodgems. The grey, British weather and tired, dilapidated leisureland setting are well suited to our grumbling, pessimistic sense of humour.

Yet it is not the Disney-bashing that’s the most compelling element in the show, though it’s certainly gained the most attention. Where is the cutting satire on current issues we’ve seen in the wall mounted Banksys? Jake and Dinos have already taken down capitalist behemoths McDonald’s more succinctly and subtly; the distorted Little Mermaid sculpture inside is a weakened version of Takashi Murakami’s more biting grotesquery versions of popular cartoons. Heck, someone has already tarnished our childhood elsewhere with angry gangsta versions of the Muppets. What I find more hilariously dark is the inclusion of a Jimmy Savile themed Punch and Judy show written by acid-tongue Julie Burchill, and a fire pit in which to burn Jeffrey Archer novels, and a boat pond filled with asylum seekers. Elsewhere a front advertises pocket money with Wonga-style interest rates for children. These are the touches that make you wince, hitting the bullseye. There is a sharp humour behind it which is sorely lacking in much addressing of topical issues in contemporary art. It’s drab and deliberately disappointing: and I love the sound of it.

How ironic that thousands are predicted to visit the show. I was curious to see if it will charge tickets: it looks like it does, though the site didn’t work when I tested it, which is probably exactly how it’s meant to be; vaguely disappointing and a little bit crap.

© artbytch@artlyst.com artlyst 2015


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