This post contains descriptions of Dismaland that are better left to your untarnished initial experience. Leave if you don’t want the experience explained to you. (The exhibit is no longer showing and has been sent to serve as shelter for refugees in Calais).
Getting there is easy enough. From London, you can catch a train to Bristol, and then onward to Weston Super Mare. The home of the 5 week Banksy and Friends exhibit known as Dismaland. The experience starts with a one-hour queue to get to the ticket booth to purchase wristbands for entry. Once you’ve completed that obstacle, you are ushered into a second queue to actually get in which ends up taking another hour. Welcome to Dismaland.
Upon entering you’re “greeted” by the hard working security staff of Dismaland, who make sure to diligently probe you with questions such as “Did you pack your own bag today?”, “Where are you from?”, “Didn’t your mother teach you to button your top shirt button?”, or “Is that yours? (referring to a child in a stroller)”
It’s hard to keep a straight face to this, when the entire security checkpoint is a ruse. The scanners, metal detectors, cameras are all made of cardboard. The notion of the “appearance of security” that makes itself apparent as I write this is shocking.
After entering you are treated to a variety of dismal sites.
From the photogenic, distorted, Aerial to the topsy turvy trucks your Instagram feed will be healthily fed.
It’s certainly not an attraction for the overly sensitive. While a lot of the content itself is tame, the ideas represented by them can be a bit polemical. Walking through the dismal castle you arrive at Cinderalla’s overturned carriage, Cinderella sprawled out over the side of the window and her horses overturned. There are photographers constantly snapping photos. The obvious parallel to the late Princess Diana is heavy. And it doesn’t stop there. Upon your exit, you’re shown the stills of the scene you just saw on computer screens, providing a very direct critique of peoples voracious consumption that feeds the ravenous behavior of the paparazzi you may have been quick to judge.
The experience of it all is amazing.
The entrance into a dark warehouse containing works by numerous artists provides a range of subversive and critical works.
At the terminus of this warehouse is a large miniaturized recreation of riots in the street with tiny smashed storefronts and riot police.
And in case you’re wondering, yes there are some more traditional Banksy-esque pieces there.