Banksy launches dystopian Disneyland in derelict outdoor swimming pool

Banksy, the pioneering British graffiti artist best known for his satirical street art and social commentary, has now created the world’s first 'bemusement park' in the English resort town Weston-super-Mare. 

Toby Melville/Reuters
General view at 'Dismaland', a theme park-styled art installation by British artist Banksy, at Weston-Super-Mare in southwest England, Britain, August 20, 2015.

Banksy, the pioneering British graffiti artist best known for satirical street art and social commentary, has now created the world’s first “bemusement park”, a dystopian theme park called "Dismaland."

Occupying the derelict Tropicana swimming pool in the English resort town Weston-super-Mare, Dismaland will feature the work of almost 50 international artists. Showcasing Banksy’s characteristically dark humor, the exhibition offers a range of remarks on the state of affairs in Britain today. It is also just a 20-minute drive from the artist’s hometown.

“I always loved the Tropicana as a kid, so getting to throw these doors open again is a real honor,” Banksy told the Weston Mercury, the local paper that broke the official news of the pop-up show’s opening.  “I hope that everyone from Weston will take the opportunity to once more stand in a muddle of murky water eating cold chips to the sound of crying children.”

According to the project’s website, Dismaland will be a “festival of art, amusements, and entry-level anarchism”.  Keeping with the style of most modern theme parks, Dismaland comes equipped with a castle and merry-go-round horse. Only in the case of Banksy’s dystopian version, the decrepit castle is missing much of its covering and the horse is set be sent to the barbecue, a jab at the supermarket scandal that erupted when horsemeat was discovered in “processed beef” in supermarket chains across the United Kingdom.  

Another attraction features a model pensioner engulfed in seagulls, a parody of the media frenzy that caused British Prime Minister David Cameron to announce that we need to have a “big conversation” about aggressive birds, and almost led to a nationally funded research project on the subject.  There is also a model boat filled with migrants, a nod to Europe’s current immigration crisis and the many individuals camped in France’s port town Calais waiting for an opportunity to cross the channel to England.

Western culture, capitalism, and extreme wealth disparities are all fair game in this site of satire, where the activist musical artists Pussy Riot and Massive Attack are expected to perform Friday.

“Dismaland includes a contemporary art gallery; a ‘gothic sculpture park’ housed in a tent; a bonfire where books by the much-maligned novelist Jeffrey Archer, a local lord, will be incinerated daily; and an ‘oil caliphate themed’ mini-golf course. Artists whose work is showing include Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer and David Shrigley,” the New York Times reported.

Banksy will also present 10 new works of art at the park.

“Are you looking for an alternative to the sugar-coated tedium of the average family day out? Or just somewhere a lot cheaper?” Dismaland’s website prompts.

Admission to the park is only three British pounds for adults and free for children under the age of five. The park will remain open to visitors for five weeks, closing after Sept. 27. 

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