The Five Strangest Things I Experienced at Dismaland
We at Rife were lucky enough to get into an early showing of Banksy’s new Dismaland. And… well, wow, we’re speechless.
As ‘Dismal’ as this sounds, I actually found the experience to be uplifting in many ways…
As you’ve probably heard, Banksy has recently opened an art exhibition dressed up as a grim theme park called ‘Dismaland’ in a derelict lido in Weston-super-Mare. Unlike Disneyland, the place where children’s dreams come true, the purpose of this theme park in is to give you a hard slap in the face with reality. I was lucky enough to attend the Dismaland launch and was well and truly blown away by what I saw.
Bansky – along with many other artists from around the world such as Bill Barminksi and Damien Hurst – draws our attention to a wide range of terrible contemporary social problems. Dismaland offers scathing satirical comment on everything from the conflict in Syria, to domestic abuse. These artists argue that the world young people are growing up in is not so magical after all, but filled with misery, poverty, corruption and cruelty.
As ‘Dismal’ as this sounds, I actually found the experience to be uplifting in many ways, which I will go onto explain later. There are a lot of incredible pieces of work with extremely important messages behind them, plenty of dark humour and many bizarre goings on to be witnessed. So, here is a list of the 5 best and weirdest things I experienced at Dismaland.
1. The Enthusiastic Staff
When I was waiting to enter the exhibition, I assumed the staff looked a bit glum as they were stood out in the rain. A particularly bored looking staff member asked, ‘Are you excited?’ I replied ‘Very…’ to which she responded ‘Well, you shouldn’t be’. It then became clear they were a part of the Dismaland experience. I found the contrast to the usual forced enthusiasm offered by such staff to be very humorous. As I was on my way out, one of them even leant over and quietly whispered ‘p*ss off’ into my ear.
2. Generous Pocket Money Loans
Being a student I’ve become used to the constant lingering feeling of dread caused by the sheer volume of student debt that I will leave university with. Therefore, I found this piece by Darren Cullen very easy to relate to. In the Dismaland brochure he states ‘children’s play, like every other aspect of human life has been colonised by capitalism, adapted into a sort of childhood training camp for the hard-working consumers and soldiers of tomorrow’.
3. Retail Baby
This piece shows a foetus inside a vending machine, its skin covered in the logos of several large corporations. It comments on the power that these companies have over people’s lives in our consumerist society. The vending machine represents how these corporations view human life as expendable and convenient to use for their benefit. I found it to be an extremely powerful piece.
4. The Protest Posters
Living in Bristol I have found myself to be in bubble of extremely left-wing young people, who care a lot about the issues raised in this exhibition. A poster on one of the theme parks walls, which particularly stood out to me stated ‘if you are not outraged, you are not paying attention’. I realise many people feel its pointless paying attention to these issues as they don’t have the power to do anything. However, the popularity of Dismaland makes me very hopeful. Things need to change and the first step in doing so is to create awareness, which is exactly what Dismaland has set out to do.
5. The Questionable Can
And lastly I leave you with this ‘questionable can’ as I’m not 100% sure what its supposed to be or what the meaning behind it is. But for some reason I found it pretty fascinating – may be because it means that everything can be questioned.
Support more young people to have their voices heard
Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.
We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.
In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important.
Through supporting Rife you can ensure that this important work continues and that more young people have their voices heard.