The ever-elusive Bansky has unveiled a “bemusement park” called Dismaland in a seaside resort town in southwestern England. Designed to be a subversive commentary on consumer culture, Dismaland instead falls totally flat, according to Jonathan Jones of The Guardian. It is a truly dismal place, but not in the way Bansky intended.
The irony of the security on the way into Dismaland is underlined by all the references to CCTV and the wicked security establishment that pervade it. Yet that obvious double standard goes much deeper. Dismaland is a kind of consummation, for me, of all that is false about Banksy. It claims to be “making you think” and above all to be defying the consumer society, the leisure society, the commodification of the spectacle. Disneyland packages dreams, Dismaland is a blast of reality. But it is just a media phenomenon, something that looks much better in photos than it feels to be here. “Being here” is itself just a way of touching the magic of Banksy’s celebrity – that’s why everyone is taking pictures. This is somewhere to come to say you went. As an actual experience it is thin and threadbare, and I found, to be honest, quite boring.
I felt I was participating in a charade where everyone has to pretend this is a better joke than it is. In reality the crazy fairgrounds and dance tents at rock festivals are far more subversive – because they are joyous...
As a news story, a media sensation, it works wonderfully – but up close, this is a Potemkin theme park. It’s not an experience, just a pasteboard substitute for one. Indeed, it is a mere art exhibition. Dismaland does not offer the energy and danger that real theme parks do. Instead, it brings together a lot of bad art by the seaside.