Tuesday, 1 September 2015

A Trip to Dismaland

I don't live all that far from Weston-Super-Mare, although I very rarely visit, but when I saw that Banksy (and others) had created a pop-up amusement park there, I thought it was worth a visit.

Tickets are not easy to get.. either you go to Weston and queue for hours, and maybe you get in and maybe you don't, or you try to catch the website in one of the brief moments when tickets are on sale and available, and pre-book. 

Which was what I managed to do. So on Sunday, I set off on my way to Weston. 

It started to rain as I left the house, which seemed appropriate, and as I got closer to Weston I found myself feeling more nervous, which I rather think is due to the fact the only reason I ever used to go to Weston was for driving lessons, and to take my test (we had to go to Weston as we didn't have any roundabouts or dual carriage ways nearer home). 

However, on this occasion, no-one made me do an emergency stop, or a three point turn, although I did have to do some reverse parking on a bit of wasteland which had been co-opted by the council as a spare car park.

It was still pretty grey and grim when I arrived in Weston, (to be fair, it's pretty grim even in glorious sunshine. . it is a town which would like to grow up to be Blackpool, but can't quite make it.. It is a perfect venue for a subversive theme park.

It starts with a queue (even if you have pre-booked), but I had brought a book for that. Then once you get through the queue there is an airport-style security checkpoint, with meticulously hand-crafted cardboard surveillance cameras and x-ray machines, and convincingly grumpy 'police' who randomly take people aside to search, and to question for offences such as smiling or looking cheerful (while telling other attendees to 'move on, nothing to see')  Accompanied by nervous laughter from those selected. . .

Once inside, things get even more interesting.

Stallion : Ben Long
There is a magical castle (a little battered, of course) and some amazing, gigantic sculptures, including the Stallion made entirely from scaffolding, which I loved, and a pair of articulated tanker lorries which were either dancing or mating...
Big Rig Jig : Mike Ross
There are sideshows - where you can try to win an anvil at an anvil-shy (like a coconut-shy, but with anvils..) or try to catch plastic duckies (dead ones, from a pool with an oil-soaked pelican in the centre, of course) 
There is a ferris wheel, and one can play mini-gulf  (like mini-golf, but with added oil-based war)

There is also a merry-go-round, which is almost normal, (and available for the children to ride on)  until you look closely, and realise that there is already one passenger on the roundabout...

And then there is extra art. There is a pickled unicorn, by Damien Hirst, some of the most disturbing crockery you are ever likely to see, by Ronit Baranga, not to mention some trophy heads which are a worrying mash-up of wedding cake, false teeth and great, curving horns..

In a another gallery there is more art, including an embroidered car, a mushroom-cloud of a tree house (or perhaps a tree-house of a mushroom cloud), by Deitrich Wegner, and a perfect, macabre fairground horse.

It is here, too, that one of Banky's own pieces (Mickey Mouse engulfed by a snake) is to be found,  along with lots of other art, some amusing, some disturbing, almost all thought-provoking. (I enjoyed Kate Macdowell's box of mice (each with it's own human ear), and Jessica Harrison's china tattooed ladies.

Did I mention Death?  He is there, too, spinning around on the dodgems, to a raucous rendition of 'Staying Alive'.

There is a lot more, too. It's all weirdly fascinating, often depressing, in places thought-provoking and in others surprisingly funny. 

And the determinedly grim and grumpy staff are a constant reminder of how any sane person would be, if working in an amusement park and not contractually required to smile...!

I had reservations about going, and I nearly decides against it when I saw the queue, but I am glad I persevered.

 (more photos on Flickr if you are interested)

Oh, and then after leaving Dismaland, by way of contrast I visited the Sand Sculpture festival, which was not seeking to be subversive or controversial at all. It was weird.


Martha said...

OMG!!! How wonderful. Lucky you for getting a ticket and lucky us for getting to see your photos. Thank you.

Marjorie said...

I'm glad you enjoyed seeing them!