Australia is a wonderful place to hail from. I wouldn’t swap my upbringing for anything in the world.
That being said, my home country is a really long way from the rest of the world. There were many moments growing up when I felt I was impossibly far away from all the action, completely missing out and sulked accordingly. Examples that spring to mind in this immediate moment range from the launch of the Harry Potter books (severely underrepresented in rural Australia), to Viva Forever, the Spice Girls Musical.
When I heard about Dismaland, Banksy’s latest attempt to demonstrate what imbecilic consumerists we all are, I stubbornly decided that I needed to go. I can’t say I’ve ever been much of a fan of Bansky’s art, but the inexpensive event was by the seaside and provided me with the opportunity to get out of London for a couple of days.
We arrived in Weston-super-Mare just in time for the 11am session. An hour later, we were still waiting in the massive line, which had begun letting people trickle inside.
“Is this meant to be part of the experience?” I asked my boyfriend.
At the top of the line, we were searched by security, who were confiscating pens, spray cans – anything that one could use to destroy the artwork. It was ironic when you remember Banksy himself is essentially a glorified vandal.
“What’s this?!” The security man demanded, pulling a glass jar out of my bag.
“Um, my toothpaste?” I explained, sheepishly. He sniffed at the jar, then proceeded to confiscate it along with the rest of my toiletries, all of which were encased in glass bottles.
“Will I get them back?” I asked him.
“Yep, you can grab them when you’re done. I’m sure they’ll be fine here.” He then threw them into a nearby bin, an act that was hugely encouraging.
We finally found ourselves inside the establishment, walking through a faux security clearance point.
“Stop smiling,” one attendant barked at us.
“Shit trainers,” another commented on my shoes. I had chosen to pair my old runners with a T-shirt dress so that remark was probably deserved.
There were masses of people inside the area – waiting to ride the scary looking Ferris Wheel, fish for melted rubber ducks or lining up (again!) to take a look inside the castle. Neither of us could bear the thought of having to queue for another twenty minutes. We opted instead to circle the park, ogling over the assortment of sculptures and then shuffled into the gallery.
Dismaland was an Instagrammer’s wet dream – this was evident in the gallery more than anywhere else in the park. People were crowding around each and every picture, snapping away with their phones. It was like being at the Louvre all over again!
We climbed some stairs which led to a vantage point where we were able to survey the area. As I looked out across the park, I thought about how odd this entire experience was.
I watched people stroll around, holding balloons that declared “I AM AN IMBECILE.”
They paid good money to get on rides that were plainly going to be nothing but disappointing.
They lined up for twenty minutes to enter the castle. Walking inside, you were instructed to smile for the camera. You would then come across a depiction of Cinderella’s carriage post a horrific accident, the princess herself hanging motionless out the window. Exiting the castle, you were offered the chance to purchase a print of yourself, unknowingly smiling in front of the wreck.
This sculpture was intended as an “insight into the life of a real princess”, a reference to the untimely death of Princess Diana.
I’m not sure how I felt about Dismaland. To be honest, I’m not even sure I enjoyed my time there. It did well to depict all that is unsavory about humanity. Maybe I’m optimistic, but I like a silver lining. Banksy may be trying to hold a mirror up to show us what we’re really like. Yet, I honestly believe humanity is capable of more than what was suggested.
Regardless, I left Dismaland feeling as the exhibition promised I would.
I left feeling bemused.