Street artist Banksy's 'Dismaland' is 'escape from mindless escapism'

Thu Aug 20, 2015 3:16pm EDT
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By Paul Sandle

WESTON-SUPER-MARE, England (Reuters) - Britain's newest theme park, "Dismaland", opens on Friday, with a decrepit castle, a merry-go-round horse set to be cooked and model boats on a pool full of refugees, all courtesy of British street artist Banksy.

The "Bemusement Park" in Weston-super-Mare, an English seaside town near Banksy's home city of Bristol, is tagged as "The UK's most disappointing new visitor attraction!" and features work by other artists including Damien Hirst.

The secretive Banksy, famed for his ironic murals in unexpected places, said the show was something different as his street art had become "just as reassuringly white, middle class and lacking in women as any other art movement".

Visitors to the event, put on in a disused swimming pool, can have a souvenir photo taken in Cinderella's Castle against a backdrop of a dead princess in a coach crash, while surly stewards carry bunches of balloons labeled "I'm an imbecile".

Banksy, whose identity has never been revealed, described it as "a festival of art, amusements and entry-level anarchism".

"It's not a swipe at Disney," he said in a press release. "I banned any imagery of Mickey Mouse from the site. It's a showcase for the best line-up of artists I could imagine, apart from the two who turned me down."

The site, whose signage bares more than a passing resemblance to Disneyland, is full of the artist's subversive statements and epigrams on Western culture, the media, capitalism and extreme disparities of wealth.

A model pensioner is engulfed in seagulls, a reference to a media panic about how aggressive birds had become this summer, while the merry-go-round horse, destined to become lasagne, harks back to a food scandal sparked by the presence of horsemeat in supermarket ready meals.   Continued...

A poster is pictured at 'Dismaland', a theme park-styled art installation by British artist Banksy, at Weston-Super-Mare in southwest England, Britain, August 20, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville