Erstellt am: 1. 9. 2015 - 11:41 Uhr
Dismaland by Banksy: My Visit
Johnny Bliss, 2015
Actually, by all rights, I shouldn't have made it to Dismaland.
My one opportunity to go was on my last full day in the UK, before an international flight to Mexico, and when I woke up that morning, I was on the other side of the country, in Suffolk. On top of that, there were rail strikes, which meant trains were going much more sluggishly than usual.
* - at the time. Now it's just nearly impossible.
Did I mention that it was* impossible to purchase advance tickets?
For those few of you who are living in a cave, Banksy is a pseudonymous street artist based somewhere in the UK, with close connections to Bristol. You've probably seen some of his artwork on a wall somewhere.
Rosetta Lake Mills, 2014
Dismaland is an art exhibition featuring the works of over fifty different artists including Damien Hirst, Bill Barminski, Wasted Rita, and of course, Banksy. It is located at the seafront on the former Tropicana site, in the small seaside town of Weston-super-Mare. Tropicana, in its heyday, housed an outdoor swimming pool, but since 2000, it's sat dismally empty.
Now, it's still dismal, but, well... One thing at a time.
When I decided to go, my odds of actually making it in were very slim. There had been cues of four hours or more just the day before, when it opened to the public, and when you combine the fact that I needed over six hours to travel there, and had to catch a reasonably early train back to London that evening (to catch the next morning's early flight), the whole expedition seemed to me like a rather expensive exercise in futility.
On top of that it was raining quite heavily across the UK, and I'd brought an umbrella but no rain jacket. So after the third train in a row got delayed or canceled, as I caught myself shivering on a platform, I wondered what exactly it was I thought I was doing.
What I didn't realize then was that the rain was the greatest godsend I could have wished for.
When I finally, at long last, arrived at the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, the sun was peeking out through the clouds, and the rain had given it a rest, at least for a little while. A good omen?
* - yay rain!
Fifteen minutes' walk through the town later, I was waiting in an absurdly short line* to purchase tickets. Fifteen minutes after that, I was already strolling leisurely into .. er, what amounts to a cartoon airport security checkpoint, with real (sorta) security guards and scanning machines.
It was just starting to rain again as I stepped outside and began my tour around Dismaland. It looked indeed very dismal. I asked one of the guys wearing mouse ears if they knew of anyone I could potentially ask for an interview. He shrugged his shoulders lethargically, replied "I don't know, maybe over there?" and pointed to the other side of the park. I must have looked skeptical, because he released a long-suffering sigh, shrugged his shoulders, and walked off into the rain.
That was pretty much representative of most of my conversations with Dismaland staff.
All of that said, it really did succeed as a theme park, considering that all of the rides and games were legitimate - you really could ride the carousel, or the ferris wheel, and you could play nearly all the games.
If everything was just that extra bit rundown and depressing, the experience of going through was still not all that different from what you might find at Six Flags or, well, Disneyland.
After wandering the periphery for a while, I found myself increasingly drawn to the decrepit ruin of a Cinderella castle roughly in the centre of the bemusement park, complete with a filthy moat. From the outside it appeared little more than a rundown facade, but inside it was cavernous and dark, with hints of a strobe light flashing from further inside.
Going further in, you would see that these are not strobe lights at all, but rather the flashing of cameras, over and over again at the scene of a serious accident. Cinderella's pumpkin carriage had overturned upside down, the horse responsible for driving the carriage lay there dead, and the corpse of Cinderella herself lay amidst the wreckage...
* - Pictures above in the "attractions" slideshow
After this, I spent something like an hour in line for something - nobody in the line knew what, exactly - and it turned out to be an bus-mounted museum exploring cruelty, and the role obedience plays in it*.
I then wandered into a small tent, where I found a booth from the community organization, ACORN. I spent about five minutes quizzing the two people running it, before I finally realized that there was no joke, they were exactly what they said they were.
This intrigued me enough, that I decided I needed to interview them.
Johnny Bliss, 2015
Johnny Bliss, 2015
At about this point, I realized that if I wanted to make it back to London by that night, it might be intelligent for me to leave and return to the train station at Weston-super-mare, the small seaside town which I almost certainly never would have visited if it wasn't for Dismaland.
I left (and yes, I did exit through the gift shop) having not seen everything, and feeling most dismal for that. Satire or no, it was very easily the most entertaining amusement park I had visited in a very long time.
Johnny Bliss, 2015
Banksy's Dismaland opened to the public on the 22nd of August; it will run 11 a.m.-11 p.m. until the 27th of September. On Friday nights, there will be concerts from artists such as Run the Jewels, Massive Attack, and Pussy Riot. For more information, check out the official website dismaland.co.uk.