Dismaland – where reality bettered art

Dismaland – where reality bettered art

Getting into Dismaland, Banksy’s new art installation theme park at Weston-super-Mare, was more depressing than the exhibition itself.

As we began to weave our way through the stacked rows of zig-zag metal barriers to join the entry queue, which on another night would have been hilarious – getting to the end only to realise you can walk in a direct line round the back – an unforecast apocalypse arrived.

There was no escape. After 5 minutes of torrential downpour we were swimming in our socks. Not just damp on one side but, thanks to the back-and-forth through the barriers, a total 360° submergence.

At which point I experienced a massive and complete sense of humour failure. This lasted for at least the next two hours as we wandered around, sodden and shivering, in what used to be Europe’s largest outdoor pool complex. A once glamorous seafront destination, derelict for the whole of the 21st Century until now.

I couldn’t see the point. Yes it had taken a lot of work and was impressively crappy-looking, but burning Jeffrey Archer books seemed like a joke from 1983. A riot police van in a lake with a slide? I mean, well, OK.

All images by Sleeves Rolled Up

But slowly, whether it was me starting to thaw out, the cumulative effect or some standout pieces, I warmed to it. The demon dodgems made me laugh. Caroline McCarthy’s hand-crafted Promise and a tent of protest banners made me think, and Jimmy Cauty’s extraordinary handmade model village made me gape in awe.

And by the time it came to leave, I was fully enjoying it. And enjoying the fact that political art on such a grand scale can be amusing, accessible and apposite all at the same time.

Three hours after our drenching we walked away and looked over our shoulders at the newly developed enclave. In the dark with the multi-coloured lights illuminating the tall sculptures over the beach, it actually looked quite beautiful. For three quid it was quite a show. If only our arrival had been a little less dismal than Dismaland itself.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS: Have you been? Would you like to go? What do you think of the idea?

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