The graffiti artist Banksy has created an art exhibit in the form of a theme park called Dismaland amidst the ruins of the abandoned Tropicana seafront swimming resort in the United Kingdom. The dystopian themes of the art exhibit, which will be open to the public for five weeks, is described by Banksy as a “family theme park unsuitable for children” that “offers an escape from mindless escapism.”
The exhibit slash theme park features the work of more than 50 artists, including Damien Hurst, Jenny Holzer and Jimmy Cauty. It is no secret that part of the theme park’s aim is to pointedly bewilder its audience as the term “bemusement” is attached to the theme park’s title. Attendees are faced with disconcerting situations from the start. They are accosted by strange and confusing apocalyptic images that counter the sweet-washed world of popularized media in Western culture and of course, Disneyland.
On Aug. 20, the BBC posted a walkthrough of the exhibition. BBC journalist Andrew Plant entered into the theme park and was stopped by multiple actors posing as disgruntled security guards. After he walked through the security gates and entered onto the theme park grounds, distorted music the likes of what can be found in cartoon resort hotel elevators was pumped out over a park dubbed by Plant as “carefully constructed chaos.” Despondent park attendants (whose vest backs literally read “dismal”) slouched nearby as the journalist explored the exhibit which includes (per the exhibit’s website) “uneven floor surfaces, extensive use of strobe lighting, imagery not suitable for children and swearing.” The park also includes a host of art exhibits, many of which offer commentary on recent political and social issues. Many of the park’s exhibits, such as the games on site, require audience participation.
In a recent press release, Banksy related that the exhibit was “not a swipe at Disney.” He said that he had even banned any and all images of the beloved Mickey Mouse from the theme park grounds. “It’s a showcase for the best line-up of artists I could imagine, apart from the two who turned me down,” he wrote. However, similarities are undeniable. The rundown Disney-esque castle on the park grounds, as well as the one in the distressed theme park logo (which features a distressed version of the Disneyland font), are dead giveaways. Exhibits such as the one featuring a riot gear outfitted paparazzi surrounding what looks like Cinderella’s overturned carriage is another satirical nod towards the wonderful world of Disney. No wonder there is a note on Dismaland’s website that strictly prohibits “spray paint, marker pens, knives and legal representatives of the Walt Disney Corporation.” Of course, even this note is written jokingly, since satire is still a form of free speech.