Everyone’s talking about it, so we thought we thought we’d put our thoughts forward too.
Banksy’s Dismaland now open at Weston-super-Mare, was at first interesting to hear about. It seemed to be an amusing anecdote of modernity, though on a slightly more deeper level, it’s as sinister as the very subject it’s critiquing (as much of popular art is). Dismaland seems to both entertain and mock the thrill seekers, the arts consumer, or whatever you want to call us, the viewers, by sort of forcing us to engage in the idea that consumer culture is mindless and brain-numbing. Yet its obvious statement is not so much an intelligent commentary on current political issues as it is a basic parody of events that have had real damaging effects on people and the environment. Maybe it doesn’t seek to be sophisticated or intelligent, it’s sole purpose being a statement of the obvious. Perhaps the idea is to be simplistic so that your average Joe can understand it, have a laugh about it, and on some level be educated by it. Or perhaps, as I’ve already said, it’s a big joke that’s constantly and inadvertently making fun out of the unsuspecting consumer. You either just get it and go along with it, or, you’re just an idiot who’s taken it a bit too seriously and missed the point. My view, and I am aware that it’s a bit damning considering there are a whole bunch of artists behind the show who bring a host of knowledge and experience, still, it strikes me as a big budget undergraduate exhibition, not to say that undergrads cannot produce excellent or mature pieces of work (heeding comment below).
Jonathan Jones comments in the Guardian:
Dismaland is a kind of consummation, for me, of all that is false about Banksy. It claims to be “making you think” and above all to be defying the consumer society, the leisure society, the commodification of the spectacle. Disneyland packages dreams, Dismaland is a blast of reality. But it is just a media phenomenon, something that looks much better in photos than it feels to be here. “Being here” is itself just a way of touching the magic of Banksy’s celebrity – that’s why everyone is taking pictures. This is somewhere to come to say you went.
Please note, by writing this we’re not claiming to be an authority on what is and what is not art, nor are we devaluing anyone’s work or calling them a sell-out because the mystique of what used to be has gone, nor even are we saying it’s not fun and, ahem, amusing.