Dismaland, curated by Banksy and featuring internationally renowned and emerging artists, with activities ranging from short films by 22 directors and animators, concerts and impossible to win games, took place from August till the end of September 2015 in Weston-super-Mare. Unable to attend the show, in the past month we spent our time documenting it, reading hundreds of titles, press coverage, reviews and interviews, as well as the reactions on social media. Unfortunately, especially in the media, the reactions were mainly resumed to a love-hate approach, you either were blindly in love with the experience or dismissed it as futile, and were focused too much on Banksy and less on the variety of works on display, on the message of the show.
Anyway, it was a must-write for the press. When beginning to read the information available on the Internet, it kind of sums up as follows: Amazing, brilliant, extraordinary, the got-to-go-there-and-take-a-#selfie hottest destination of the year. Disney, anti-Disney, twisted, bad, boring, lazy, uninteresting, kitsch, cliché, disappointing, doubtfully sarcastic, sick, dark, shocking and again twisted. Bring more unicorns so that we can have something to really enjoy. For gossip sake, is Brad Pitt coming too? Art about something versus art about nothing. But at least trending, makes a good story. What is art? Insert quotes and definitions here. Who is Banksy? Where is he, is he among us, is he the parking attendant? Did you meet him? Banksy, Banksy and Banksy – the brand, the genius, the hypocrite anti-capitalist and, worst of all, the anarchist, talking about the same problems since forever, these issues are not news-worthy however, let’s skip the Geodome tent, such negative vibe in all those activist and political posters and banners. We got it, we know the punchline before even considering your bemusement experience, as if we ever did something to acknowledge and act. At least cash is flowing to the seaside and on eBay, and they plan to do some good providing shelter for refugees.
Our aim is to present what Banksy, the artists, press and visitors thought of the exhibition in their own words, photos, videos and more.
Referring to Dismaland in the interview published on the official website, Banksy describes the project as “a family attraction that acknowledges inequality and impending catastrophe”, while also explaining that the “Dismal Land branding isn’t about Disney at all – its just a framework that says – OK, we accept that making art puts us in the light entertainment industry, and we’ll attempt to engage at that level – but for the left.” And the artist adds: “This is not a street art show. It’s modelled on those failed Christmas parks that pop up every December – where they stick some antlers on an Alsatian dog and spray fake snow on a skip. It’s ambitious, but it’s also crap. I think there’s something very poetic and British about all that.” Further discussing the show, the artist states: “I think there’s space for art to be loud, crass and obvious. If it looks like the rantings of an angry adolescent what’s wrong with that? What was wrong with punk? As far as I’m concerned there are too many things we need to discuss in the actual world before I start making abstract art.”
One aspect which was in focus in the exhibition was the refuge crisis, and in this regard and concerning the impact of today on future generations, Banksy says: “In the remote control boat pond at Dismaland it randomly switches the boat you operate – so you have no control over whether your destiny is to be an asylum seeker or a western super-power. (…) Mostly we’ve chosen to deal with this by cocooning ourselves, that we can live with the guilt. But why should children be immune from the idea that to maintain our standard of living other children have to die trapped in the hulls of boats in the bottom of the Mediterranean? The grown-ups might have convinced themselves small incremental change and buying organic tomatoes is enough, but passing that mindset onto the next generation doesn’t feel like good parenting.”
As the curator of the show, Banksy shared insights about his experience in an exclusive interview for Juxtapoz: “It turns out curating can be surprisingly creative. For instance, I asked Jenny Holzer for one of her electronic signs, but she didn’t have anything in stock. She said she was happy to supply the text, but I’d have to find some signs. I asked a lighting guy to get a big LED screen and he came back with a system that cost £8000 a week to rent. I couldn’t afford that, so I suggested we record Jenny’s slogans and play them over the Tannoy system. She liked the idea and said she’d never done anything like it in forty years. So now we have a totally original Jenny Holzer that cost fuck all.”
At the same time, the artist talked about the reactions of the public: “I’m at a point with art where I only really care if the piece is more than the sum of its parts. (…) All I need is to make my point and get something more out of it than what I put in. If something extra has happened between the idea and realizing it, that’s a win. This week I surrounded my Cinderella’s carriage with a ring of paparazzi, and the flash bulbs made the shadows leap around the room, and the pumpkin looked like it was lit by flickering candles, so I’m good. I never saw that coming. My satisfaction level is independent of your opinion. If I feel a piece has worked, there’s nothing you can say that will take that away. And the flip side is, if I know it’s failed, there’s nothing you can say that would make it OK.” Some pieces by Banksy were created with the audience in mind: “The Cinderella sculpture is only complete when surrounded by a gawping crowd snapping photos. The audience is the punchline. Likewise, the killer whale is crap in real life. It’s only good when you pose behind it pulling a face and send a picture to your mate.”
The Guardian also interviewed Banksy, who says about the audience of the show: “If you’re the kind of person who feels jaded by the over-corporate blandness that passes for family light entertainment, then this is the bespoke leisure opportunity that will connect with your core brand dynamic. It doesn’t so much ask the question, ‘What is the point in art now?’ as ask, ‘What is the point in asking, What is the point in art now?’”.
Regarding his choice for Weston-super-Mare: “It’s situated in a former lido that stretches across two-and-a-half acres of heavily fortified beachfront compound, comprising a pool, sun terrace and small amphitheatre. I asked myself: what do people like most about going to look at art? The coffee. So I made an art show that has a cafe, a cocktail bar, a restaurant and another bar. And some art. (…) The advantage of putting art in a small seaside town is you’re only competing with donkeys. I think a museum is a bad place to look at art; the worst context for art is other art.”
“[Banksy] I like to ask artists this question: if you could choose only one, would you rather be thought of as a great artist or a nice person?
EL-P Interesting question. We all want recognition and validation to an extent for our art, but greatness as a trade for decency is a risky proposition. In my life I try to leave the people I encounter with the feeling that they have been respected and treated with warmth and appreciation. Being known as honorable is way more important to me. But being that my career is in the public and my personal relationships are ultimately private, I suppose, for the sake of the question, being considered a great artist publicly means a bit more than being considered a nice guy publicly. Although I like to think I am thought of in that way. Point being, I don’t get paid to be a nice guy, I just try to be one.
KM I don’t know what the hell the future brings. If I did, I would play the lotto and win the mega millions and buy toy cars, real muscle cars, sneakers and art. I cannot lie: as good as it feels to get my deserved props, the best part of reading social media after I meet folks is reading: ‘Mike was a nice guy’. I believe being honourable lasts longer than rapping good.”
Banksy also mentioned their speech at Ferguson.
Banksy @ Dismaland
Andreas Hykade (Bavaria)
Video source: wykah
Amir Schiby (Israel)
The image refers to the four boys killed in Gaza in 2014 while playing soccer on the beach (more info).
Ammar Abd Rabbo (Syria)
Axel Void (USA)
Barry Reigate (UK)
Ben Long (UK)
Ben Long. ‘Ice Cream Coving’ (2010) and ‘Horse Scaffolding Sculpture’ (2015). Images © the artist
“If you compare Horse Scaffolding Sculpture to equestrian monuments of the past, what you see is something more skeletal, fragile and less permanent. In a way it could be read as a spectre of imperialism and the authoritarianism of a previous age. The bare bones of something that might once have seemed insurmountably grand.” (Ben Long – read more)
“The first day I wandered round with the public I have to admit there was no-one more disappointed than me. I think the whole concept might be flawed. By repackaging an art show as an amusement park everybody’s expectations are raised substantially. The branding writes a cheque that the event doesn’t cash. I was there looking at Ben Long’s sculpture of a horse constructed from scaffolding, a piece that if it was shown in the V&A alongside other sculptures would be remarkable, but the lady next to me asked her husband ‘Does it do anything?’ I suddenly realised the whole premise was wrong, I’d pushed it too far and it had gone from being a pretty good art show to a very sub-standard amusement park. I mean, who stands in the Tate looking at a Henry Moore asking – does it do anything?” (Banksy, interviewed by Eleanor Mills for The Sunday Times, 30 August 2015 – read more)
Bill Barminski (USA)
“It’s cardboard, it is tactile. It’s serious but fun.
People seem to like it, it’s funny, sometimes I go in and watch and people take it so seriously like it’s real and other people look around and realise it’s a fake security checkpoint and start making jokes.
I encourage people to interact and pick things up, to look at it. That’s the fun of it. There’s not a lot of art where you are encouraged to manhandle it.” (read more on Weston Mercury)
Brock Davis (USA)
Brock Davis. ‘High Heel’ (2015, photograph, 101.6 x 67.8 cm / 40 x 26 in) and ‘Can – Dismaland version’ (2015, 2009, sculpture, remake of the 2009 sculpture, raw plastic, acrylics, bandage, hair). Images © the artist. Read an interview with the artist about the show on CBS Minnesota.
Caitlin Cherry (USA)
Caroline McCarthy (IRL)
Caroline McCarthy – ‘Promise’ / Image © the artist
Damien Hirst (UK)
“I didn’t want to include Damien Hirst, the show doesn’t need his validation or any of the baggage that might come with his name. But when you’re organising an art show at the seaside and you know there’s a sculpture of a beachball hovering on a jet of air above fifty sharpened steak knives – well, you have to include it. That piece is so poetic and technically intriguing. This show is packed with a lot of exciting new artists it would be profoundly depressing if the stand-out artist was Damien Hirst. But you can’t argue with the piece. It’s bigger than what you think of him, or what you think of the art world, or even what he thinks of himself. It’s a perfectly realised piece of work.” (Banksy interview)
Darren Cullen (UK)
Darren Cullen – Pocket Money Loans, a work of satire drawing attention to the way the consumer credit industry preys on the vulnerable and targets children with marketing (learn more about the project). First two photos photo © Geo.Warriors, third photo © REUTERS/Toby Melville.
Interviewed by VICE, Darren Cullen also offered information about the “anti-militarist poster campaign criticising the biannual Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) fair – the world’s largest arms exhibition”, and the artist explains: “There’s a few artists and designers resident at Banky’s current exhibition – Dismaland – who wanted to do something about the DSEI arms fair. I’m working there with my Pocket Money Loans installation, which is a payday loan shop for kids but I took a break from giving children advances on their pocket money at 5000 percent APR to help. Strike! magazine have a stall here and they’ve been distributing these bus stop adshell hack packs with the Special Patrol Group – a sort of shadowy militant wing of Strike! magazine – which give demonstrations to the public on how to break into advertising space. Along with the Museum of Cruel Designs – an arms-trade exhibition at Dismaland – they thought it was a good idea to put the two things together. So we designed the posters and the SPG and their small army of volunteers took them to London.”
Darren also discusses his poster piece with VICE: “A lot of the posters are pointing out very under-reported or ignored facts about the UK’s hypocrisy when it comes the arms trade and what we supposedly believe about democracy and not murdering people all the time. It’s completely perverse that our government wrings their hands and bleats half-convincingly about all the terrible conflicts which kill and displace millions around the world, but then simultaneously signs off on weapons and ammunition sales to those exact same regions, often arming both sides in the same conflict. My own poster is one about the UK government’s planned renewal of our Trident nuclear weapons programme. It points out all the potential benefits of a nuclear war, which I think are often over-looked when politicians are talking about the practicalities or costs of arming our country with the most appalling weapon mankind has ever created. When we’re deciding whether to blow £100 billion on a weapons system that could lead to the destruction of life on this planet it’s a good idea to spend a little time contemplating just what the consequences of that decision could be.”
David Shrigley (UK)
Dorcas Casey (UK)
Dietrich Wegner (USA)
“Wegner’s contributions to the Dismaland installation include Playhouse, a 16-foot mushroom cloud treehouse, and Cumulous Brand, a hyper-realistic sculpture of a baby tattooed with corporate logos.
Describing his Playhouse, Wegner, a professor of sculpture in EU’s nationally renowned Art Department, said, ‘The ephemeral beauty of a mushroom cloud is frightening, how it floats for a minute, delicate and blooming, yet remains chaotic and utterly destructive. We experience a contradiction between what our eyes enjoy and what our mind knows. I have combined a child’s playhouse with a symbol of destruction in an effort to articulate the confusion I see between the intentions, outcomes and ideals of our society. We use bombs to preserve our playhouse and I am not sure that is a sustainable course.’
‘I create images that are safe and unsettling, abject and beautiful,’ Wegener continued. ‘In Cumulous Brand, babies are covered in multicolored tattoos. The tattoos are selected through an interview process with an adult prominent in the child’s life, usually the parents. Each work is a portrait through the logos of the products used, the activities participated in and organizations belonged to throughout this adult’s life. Cumulous Brand is a meditation on how our identities evolve and how we declare them’.”
Ed Hall (UK)
El Teneen (Egypt)
“If you ever go to Dismaland, be careful with the seagulls. They love selfish….I wanna say shellfish… I wanna say sell fish. So take care with your “fried and cheap” meal…I wanna say “fish and chips” meal. I mean… share your food with local wildlife!”
“Another BIG THEME should be Global Warming and how we are wasting the earth’s natural resources. It seems that we are trying to destroy our planet, but the planet is something bigger than us, little humans. In the war against the planet, we lost…he wins. Maybe we can get to kill ourselves (bravo!), but life will continue without us. Not a big deal.”
“After several discarded proposals, we arrived to the clever idea that there isn´t a bigger theme today than piss (peace) in the world, so lets think about it. What if the actuals wars arrive to Occident? Let’s search for the toilet please!”
“Not sure about why the emperor statues are above teen graffitis. Maybe it´s about who is behind the alternative culture, maybe it´s a tribute to those who founded the imperialism, maybe I should take some drugs and go to the disco… whatever!”
Fares Cachoux (Syria)
‘The Fifth Speech’ – “On 3 June 2012 Syrian president Bashar al-Assad delivered his fifth speech since the outbreak of the revolution: a speech that put an end to all hopes of him abandoning office peacefully, as it became clear that the situation in Syria could only move from bad to worse.”
‘The Battle of Aleppo’ – “Aleppo, the ancient Syrian city famous for its ‘art de cuisine’, remained largely uninvolved in the armed revolutionary struggle until August 2012, when fierce military confrontations suddenly erupted between regime forces and the Free Syrian Army, which quickly took half of the city.”
Foundland (Syria/South Africa)
“Using the backdrop of a ‘snakes and ladders’ board game, this scarf design reflects binary narratives of good and evil. Religion has come to play a major role in the justification of violence and power control by particular groups in Syria during 2014. Recruitment of young fighting forces is often done through the promise of rewards, be that material or religious. This scarf design investigates various visions of religious heavens from Islam and Christianity offered as rewards, for which ultra-violence is committed.”
“Many stateless political groups exist today, such as the Kurdish Women’s Movement, fighting in Northern Syria and the Palestinian resistance. Groups fight for the recognition of their identity and re-establishment of its boundaries. Continued violence in Syria, at the hands of unpredictable, violent and often powerful external forces, means that millions of Syrians have been forced into the fragile position of becoming displaced and stateless with no place of refuge.”
Works part of the scarf collection called Keffiyah Dreams. “In Keffiyah Dreams, Foundland interrogates the keffiyah pattern as a placeholder symbol for struggle movements, which may ironically defend conflicting ideologies. On the border of fashion and political statement the keffiyah represents a multitude of hopes and dreams for the Arab world. Foundland remixes and plays with icons and representations associated struggle, leadership, displacement and visions of paradise to formulate a collection of alternative keffiyah narratives.”
Greg Haberny (USA)
Huda Beydoun (Saudi Arabia)
The works are part of the series [Documenting The Undocumented]: “The series is an asymmetrical reflection of the interaction (or lack there of) between some undocumented immigrants- and I. It was challenging to take their pictures during street life exploration in Jeddah, since a lot of undocumented immigrants are being deported currently, masking their faces with Mickey and Minnie Mouse silhouette is a manner of hiding their true identity. Mickey Mouse is a character that everyone relates to, a figure of joy and happiness… He is on the other spectrum of how the undocumented immigrants felt while taking their pictures… nervous and uncomfortable.”
James Joyce (UK)
“There’s a large video installation piece titled ‘Perseverance in the Face of Absurdity’ in the first gallery. We built a large circular screen and projected the rotating face onto it and all the elements of the face tumble around as the disc rotates. Banksy wanted to use my original image for the cover of the programme and I also did a limited edition run of signed screen prints and t-shirts that you can buy as you ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’.” (interview for Hole&Corner Magazine)
Jani Leinonen (Finland)
“I am very tired of the art market, which is so very exclusive, even though art is often very inclusive. Perhaps that is the battle the School of Disobedience is fighting. We should not be selling art through the myth of «individual genius creating unique pieces», which is what my galleries and museums eagerly sells this as. All we do and think comes out of interaction with others. In activism, politics and art, to change things we don’t need individual heroes doing big things, we need movements, masses of people making small things. I am just the headmaster and the founder of the school, calling all these amazing creative people together to make a difference.
(…) I really like Dismaland visually but would have hoped for some kind of a social mechanism to change the world and not just cynically take the piss out it.” (read more in an interview for Ex_posure online art magazine)
Jeff Gillette (USA)
Jeff Gillette / Photos via Juxtapoz
In a short interview for CNN, Jeff Gillette said regarding the show: “You gotta go in there and experience and think and wonder and maybe get mad or maybe laugh. That’s a deeper entertainment than I think any other theme park would have.” In another interview for The Orange County Register, Jeff Gillette adds: “For one thing, the whole concept of Dismaland – Banksy and I share the same sensibilities. We’re not attacking Disneyland but rather looking at it in a different way… To me, it’s symbolic. Disneyland is anything you want to attribute to it – the American way or Western culture or capitalism or childhood, but mostly it’s an attractive graphic to me. It’s not a knock on Disneyland or other theme parks, just an aside. Maybe a disparaging footnote”. The artist also made the hundreds of distressed looking Mickey Mouse Ears that the workers wore at Dismaland.
Jenny Holzer (USA)
Jessica Harrison (UK)
Jimmy Cauty (UK)
Jimmy Cauty / Video © the artist, first photo © Benn Gunn Baker, second photo © Ali M, third photo © Andrew Ireland and the last © Geo.Warriors. Find out more about the Aftermath Dislocation Principle, “a vast 448 square ft model at 1:87 scale detailing the charred aftermath of what appears to have been a crazed and devastating mass riot. The only visible populace are the 3,000 or so riot police who gaze listlessly at their mobile phones, or peer nervously over the edge of ripped up motorways and chunks of torn-up land mass in a world destroyed, burned, looted and devoid of all other life.”
Joanna Pollonais (Canada)
Josh Keyes (USA)
Julie Burchill (UK)
Julie Burchill wrote a modern update of the traditional Punch and Judy: “It’s very strange how generations of children are shown domestic violence as a suitable form of comedy and entertainment, and my rewrite is reflecting that.” (more info on The Telegraph)
Kate MacDowell (USA)
Laura Lancaster (UK)
Lee Madgwick (UK)
Leigh Mulley (UK)
In an interview for ACCLAIM, Lush talks about his work: “My work is now part of the ‘I still write shit on walls but I need to pay my gas bill somehow art’ movement.” And about the show: “I thought it was a troll at first. After confirming I wasn’t having my leg pulled the first question was is it going to be some street art circus? When those two things were answered I was into it.” Also, regarding the popularity of the event and asked if he is prepared to deal with the new audience, the reply was: “My body is ready. So is my accountant.”
Mana Neyestani (Iran)
Maskull Lasserre (Canada)
Maskull Lasserre – ‘Janus’ (2015), re-carved carousel horse, 42 x 40 x 14 inches
Maskull Lasserre – ‘Outliers’ (2015)/ ‘Outliers (barefoot)’ (2012), shoes, urethane rubber
Maskull Lasserre – ‘Progress Trap II’ (2015), steel, torsion springs, hardware, chain, potential movement, 32 x 16 x 18 inches
Maskull Lasserre – ‘Grand Narrative’ (2015), steel, hardware, electric winch assembly with battery, paint, 59 x 49 x 10 inches
Images © the artist. View more
The artist talked about the show on CBC: “One’s never sure if you’re looking at the legitimate article or some subverted artwork. It’s quite disorienting in several ways, and I think that’s the value of it (…). For me, anyway, it has this satisfying effect, in that when you leave this environment, and walk down the pier, into the town, you kind of observe the rest of reality in this slightly different way. You’re a little more suspicious of everything around you, having gone through this environment that’s so heavily laden with irony and social critique and these other prerogatives.”
Michael Beitz (USA)
Mike Ross (USA)
Neta Harari Navon (Israel)
Nettie Wakefield (UK)
Paco Pomet (Spain)
Paul Insect & BAST (UK/USA)
Peter Kennard & Cat Phillips(UK)
Peter Kennard & Cat Phillips / Image © the artists
Polly Morgan (UK)
Pure Evil (UK)
Ronit Baranga (Israel)
Ronit Baranga – ‘Untitled Feast’ / Images © the artist, with Damien Hirst’s work ‘The Child’s Dream’ (2008) in the background of the third photo.
“The work consists of dozens of tableware pieces: cups, teapots, sugar bowls and piles of plates from which human fingers and mouths emerge. In this combination of the ‘still’ and the ‘alive’ joined as one, I try to change the way in which we observe useful tableware. The useful, passive, tableware can now be perceived as an active object, aware of itself and its surroundings – responding to it. On the table in the center of the tent, the pieces interact with each other, as if leaning towards each other, possibly feeding each other, escaping or following one another or simply remaining alone. (…) The tent can be seen as a ‘freak show’ tent from the past. An installation in which the creatures and beasts gather for a feast around the table, but the tableware is busy with itself. Like a story within a story.” Read more.
Sami Musa (Palestine)
Scott Hove (USA)
Severija Inčirauskaitė-Kriaunevičienė (Lithuania)
Shadi Alzaqzouq (Palestine)
When finding out that three Israeli artists were taking part in the show, the artist decided to protest, as he told al-Araby al-Jadeed: “I found out when arrived at the show that three Israeli artists were taking part, one of whom served in the IDF. I got upset that I hadn’t been informed and tried to complain to the organisers. I was told someone would meet with me but after over an hour of waiting no one came to meet with me (…). I decided I had to protest in some way so I went and got a bed sheet from my hotel room and wrote ‘R.I.P Gaza: Boycott Israel’ on it in coal and hung it over my artwork and laid down like a corpse in front of my two paintings on display.”
Images © Shadi Alzaqzouq, via Facebook
According to the report on al-Araby al-Jadeed, published on August 25, 2015: “After half an hour security guards approached Zaqzouq to inquire about what was going on, who then called Holly Cushing – believed to be Banksy’s manager. After explaining to Cushing the reason for his protest, she told him it was too ‘ugly’ for the dark show and that an American art collector was going to buy his art – and that America and Israel were one and the same, according to Zaqzouq. Cushing then claimed that Banksy wanted the Palestinian artist’s work to be taken down from display. Zaqzouq said that two of the show’s organisers were polite and understanding.”
On August 26th, the artist published a message on his Facebook page that his work will be part of the exhibition until the end date.
Tammam Azzam (Syria)
“The grim realities of immigration, unemployment, corruption, oppression, climate change in the real world are satirically played out in front of a captivated audience,” Tammam tells 7days regarding Dismaland. He also speaks about his 2013 digital work ‘Freedom Graffiti’, in which Gustav Klimt’s painting ‘The Kiss’ is presented on a war-torn building in his hometown Syria: “The intention was to draw the outside world’s attention to the problems taking place in my home country by enlisting the recognisable images of iconic artworks.” In another recent interview, with Corinne Martin, the artist adds: “My work was printed in two million copies of the catalogue of Dismaland and I hear their website crashed the first day. So being able to reach an audience that large is a privilege and that is what makes this work special to me. The Kiss of Klimt although to me doesn’t represent all my work, was able to get people’s attention and make the rest of my art more accessible.”
The Astronauts’ Caravan (UK)
Tinsel Edwards (UK)
“Each ‘For Sale’ sign symbolises money and a financial transaction, but each one also tells a human story. The family who could no longer afford the rent when the landlord increased it by another £600 per month, so were forced to move away and take their kids away from the school where they were settled. The person whose entire monthly income goes into their landlords pocket, yet that landlord won’t make any repairs.
So I started making my own versions of the signs, replacing the text with the stories and real experiences that people had shared with me. They are a bit like protest signs I suppose, and I want them to tell the truth.” (read more about the project)
Wasted Rita (Portugal)
Zaria Forman (USA)
*Unfortunately, we couldn’t find photos of artist Suliman Mansour’s works.
The full list is available on Colossal, there were 24 short films included in the hour-long Cinema program. Here are a few:
‘F*ck That: A Guided Meditation’ by Jason Headley
‘I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!’ by Dave Fothergill [with audio added]
‘The Employment’ by opusBou
‘Symmetry’ by The Mercadantes
Source: Channel 4 News
Source: Al Jazeera English
“Cheerfully cynical and sarcastic, this magic kingdom is most successful when you are challenged to reconsider a behavior or position – and with 50 or so invited co-exhibitionists, some whose bodies of work are substantial on their own, Banksy clearly intends to challenge you and indict you with a relentless barrage of over-the-top funhouse symbolism and metaphor.” – Brooklyn Street Art (including photos and recap by Butterfly)
“As much as it’s easy for art world insiders to write off Banksy as a one-liner, a bad painter, or a capitalist in anarchist’s clothing, I don’t think you can underestimate the power of The Artist who can draw people in and encourage them to take a deeper look. Name one other artist who can get the most mainstream of mainstream media talking about the migrant crisis, the international arms trade, and the state of British tourism all in the course of one project. For every random tourist who snaps 10,000 unthinking photos at Dismaland (and, let’s face it, I did my share of that too) and leaves with nothing but the satisfaction of saying they’ve been there, some kid is going to be inspired to use art to take on social issues, to go down a path that felt previously unavailable to them.” – RJ Rushmore (Vandalog) for Hyperallergic
“These days where street art is building almost a negative reputation of being generic, decorative and more about quantity (or size), than the quality (or message), the “bemusdment” park did an excellent job selecting only a few names to represent the variety of possibilities out there.” – Arrested Motion
The New York Times considers the exhibition kitsch, concluding that: “Kitsch should not get away with exploiting people’s desire to feel the art. How wonderful it must feel to go to ‘Dismaland’ and see through society! But how awful to see society embrace art that makes you feel nothing, that makes you think only about the vast chasm between you and everyone else.”
The Economist presents Banksy as a “showbizman”, ending their review with the following: “The night this correspondent visited, the organisers were laughingly dispensing unlimited quantities of prosecco, strangely unaware of their resemblance to the portrait above them of Prime Minister David Cameron, sipping white wine insouciantly while the curtain is drawn on old Blighty. Fireworks lit up the dark. Hollywood stars joined in the frivolity. Dandily dressed salespeople circulated with price-lists of objets-d’art, and Banksy has auctioned his work elsewhere for hundreds of thousands of pounds. In 21st century Britain, even anarchists have joined the champagne society.”
Finally, many referred to the grumpy, depressed and unhelpful staff at Dismaland. Bath Chronicle found that they were trained by Pat Welsh, senior lecturer in Acting BA (Hons) at Bath Spa University, who says that: “The challenge of developing the performance skills of inexperienced and sometimes reluctant actors was exacerbated by the necessity to limit the details of the ultimate role to the bare minimum. It was a tough brief to have to teach someone to act deadpan, not to laugh and not to over-act, after all the stewards were there to add to the overall dismal experience but not to outshine the amazing artworks on display.”