BPB on Dismaland

Dismaland: “Bertolt Brecht once said ‘Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it’. Which is fine, but what if you’re in a hall of mirrors and the giant hammer is made of foam?”

I like to think that Banksy & the other artists involved in this project settled for producing a mirror for the world in the hope that we would build a better hammer?

I thought I was having fun for a while; making sandcastles, playing a nine hole miniature golf course (that, as it turns out, only had five holes), skipping around and having my photo taken. Grand. Even if it was filthy and broken and grimy. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be having fun but I was, for a bit.

The ‘Cruel Bus’ was probably the turning point for me. It was an old bus that had been painted black on the outside & inside had been filled with things we have in our world that are made to hurt us. Harmful things that are sold to us as ‘security measures’. Like an explanation of how the police are gradually becoming more & more armed, anti-sit benches, & border control fences. Yes, after having a little look at these cruel things that ‘make us safer’ I didn’t feel like I was having as much fun any more.

The couple in front of us as we were shuffled through the bus had a small child, perhaps four-years-old, with them. I wouldn’t take a child to Dismaland because I would still want them to grow up thinking that the world and the people in it are ultimately good. I think that’s possibly quite important. A lot of it would certainly be lost on children but the atmosphere was oppressive enough.

The punters at Dismaland were ultimately not the kind of people I was expecting to see. It seemed to me that some people had merely come for a ‘cheap day out’. Priced at only £3 on the door and advertised on the big TV channels as a point of interest…I might be bold and say that I think they got the wrong idea. In fact, I might be even bolder and say that that’s exactly the kind of mentality that the art was trying to combat & criticize. A little bit ironic?

Weston-super-mare was actually the most perfect setting: a place that claims to be really fun and jolly but, in reality, it’s sad, muddy and full of miserable people. All the staff at Dismaland were very obviously miserable. They were unanimated, unhelpful and unfriendly. Like the people who answer the phone when you’re ringing up and trying to switch broadband providers. They got it spot on. This is how people actually behave — the art is the mirror, remember?

If I had any criticisms of Dismaland, I would probably say that some of it might be described as ‘gimmicky’ — But actually that worked because it was a theme park. It’s mostly not subtle. And the opinions expressed are a little one-sided. AND the broken-down old Cinderella castle just made me want to burst into tears. I hated it a lot.

But it was smart art. For example, you go inside the castle & have your photo taken — you’re told to smile at a smiley face stuck on the adjacent wall — then the photo of you is superimposed onto the scene of Cinderella’s carriage crash, so it looks like you’re smiling at the dead princess whilst she’s being manically photographed by the paparazzi. It’s really clever because you look like a smiling lunatic. They tricked you. The world tricks you into turning a blind eye to the bad stuff, right? (I totally get art.)

We went on a spinning caravan ride. From the outside it looked like an old caravan on a kind of spit. We worked out before we got in it that the people inside were actually stationery for the entire ‘ride’ and the caravan was just spinning around them. But it still makes you feel queasy when you sit in there. Interestingly, when you close your eyes everything feels completely normal & right, but when you open them, it’s horrible. It’s a trick your brain plays on you and a useful metaphor. People who ‘turn a blind eye’. It all feels fine when your eyes are closed to the bad stuff, but you can only make sense of it if your eyes are open, and, only if your eyes are open, do you even have a chance at stopping the spinning.

When you know about how things really are, you’re less likely to be tricked and less likely to be hurt by the thing that’s trying to trick you.

If you can, go to Dismaland. It’s a completely horrible day out but I think you ought to see it. Go with your eyes open and try not to be an imbecile.

Originally published at bedpostblonde.tumblr.com. (24/09/2015)

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