Frankly a day out where you're supposed to be miserable suits my Eeyore like tendancies. So when my friend Chantal suggested a trip to Diamaland for her Birthday I, ironically couldn't have been happier.
For anyone who has missed it, Dismaland is the latest work from Banksy. Seemingly bored by simply stealth street art he's gone a step further and created stealth theme park/art exhibition. Situated on the seafront of Weston Super Mare, on the site of an old Lido, Banksy has assembled work from a wide range of contemporary artists, as well as his own work.
As the title suggests it's part Disneyland parody, but for those afraid of hurting the feelings of the Mouse, it's not really about Disney per-se more a swipe at modern consumer culture, and many other trappings of modern life while Banksy and Co are at it. And the Disney metaphor works on several levels.
Firstly it allows for a sense of humour about the whole thing. I get the distinct feeling this art installation would not work in America in any way. In an odd way it probably leaves most Brits feeling satisfied, after all what more do we love than a grey miserable day at the seaside, or a queue, or a miserable employee that we can complain about?
The art at Dismaland is kind of in two parts. There's the art you look at, the installations many with a definite biting commentary of their own. And then there's the immersive artistic experience of the place. The twist on Disneyfied happy days out that sees un-motivational announcements over a tannoy and employees paid to be rude to the customers rather than nice. (My personal favourite being the worker who put sand in a small child's shoe while she wasn't looking) Alongside that the Cinderella castle falling down and held together with bin bags and tape. Or the moat filled with rubbish, or my personal favourite the sad looking children's playground toys that scatter the park. It has echos of abandoned theme parks, but with living breathing rude guides. And I loved it.
Alongside this there are the installations themselves. From the famous Cinderella in the castle-pumkin coach overturned and harassed by paparazzi, to the Damien Hirst Unicorn. There's also a gallery space holding, so boasts the map 'Three large galleries which together comprise the finest collection of contemporary art ever assembled in a North Somerset seaside town' In all seriousness however, the chance to see some of the rarer contemporary artists, or perhaps less well known, in one space, outside of somewhere like London is a real opportunity.
It's this element of Dismaland that really excited me. Yes, I could write here about the art and the pieces and what they made me think, but actually what I think Banksy was looking for here wasn't really deep thoughts about each individual artist, but the experience of art in an immersive and dare I say it fun way. The day we went was apparently one of the busiest it's seen, and likely to only get busier as the end of the exhibition draws near, and the whole length of the seafront was full of people queuing to try and get a ticket. At 3pm people were being turned away becuase they had no hope of getting in that day. People were excited about art. And people were experiencing art together.
Even more importantly, it wans't what I'd call the 'arty crowd' yes there was a fair share of hipsters present. But overall there was a diverse crowd of young and old alike (though I do worry for some small children who may have thought they were going to actual Disneyland) and that above all else got me excited. The idea that all these people were excited about art and felt they didn't need to know anything about art to turn up and have fun. And despite Dismaland's best efforts to be dismal, actually we all had fun. But hopefully we took a few more serious thoughts away too.