Banksy’s Dismaland – Social Commentary or Another Art Gimic?

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.

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2 responses to “Banksy’s Dismaland – Social Commentary or Another Art Gimic?

  1. I don’t agree… I think it is doing something that a hell of a lot of so called art fails to do… makes me laugh… So much art today is stuffy and self serving… More about the artist than the art… More look at me than look at the art…
    Banksy produces art that most people can relate to… No hidden meanings…no philosophical patronising… Just straightforward art for the masses.. Joe Bloggs can enjoy and so can Jocasta Bloggs-Fotheringay….Dismaland takes the p out of those awful Xmas amusements that appear every year… The park with a bit of tinsel and an Alsation with antlers tied to his head… I find it and most of the sculptures/installations amusing and fun… But they also make CLEAR statements about society and our broken world…Some won’t get it but I think most will… I think Banksy deserves his popularity… Isn’t that what any Artist worth their salt strives for…? The fact his stuff goes for ridiculous sums is more a statement on the corrupt Art Dealer world… and those who are willing to pay those sort of prices are Muppets who buy to bolster their ego… the work has little meaning to them… I think the art is fun…Saying that this is somewhere to say that you went is nonsensical… That applies to anywhere you enjoy going… As for being a big budget undergraduate exhibition…Wow that’s really a snotty attitude to have… Are undergraduates not people too! .. 😉 Art is for the people and can be created by anyone in my opinion… It is up to the viewer to decide if they think it is worthy of that title… No one else… I think it rankles with those who have been to Art Skool.. and studied hard for years to see a graffiti artist succeed to the extent Banksy has… But there are loads of self taught artists who went on to be great… At least Banksy creates his own stuff.. (although I acknowledge Dismaland is not all his and consists of artists he invited to show)… Maybe it all comes down to skill… Is he skilled when say compared to Michelangelo.. Of course not… But then actors on Eastenders are no real thespians… But people like and enjoy their work… There is a place in the Art World for everyone… Some don’t think so… Only the grafters and intelligentsia should be allowed to produce art …Im not saying you are saying that but the whole article comes across as a diatribe against ‘unearned’ celebrity… Who cares if he is famous for simplicity and not a master craftsman… It’s a simplicity that has a good message in my opinion… And sometimes Artists messages get lost as they value that which is clever over that which will reach the audience… Rather his stuff than say Emin or Hurst(even tho Hurst has a piece there, sadly) or even Koons who is basically a designer and not an artist… (though I love his balloon dog!)… It’s dismal and sad and beautifully satirical… Not many Artists do fun these days… Good luck to him…!

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    • Thanks for your comment Lloyd. A lot of what you’re saying I agree with entirely, though I don’t think our article is a diatribe against unearned celebrity, you misunderstand the actual gist of it which is about consumerism and its paradoxical and often incredulous nature. I find its representation and critique interesting. Art is art. Everyone has a right to it and what success comes out of it, is not in my belief because it’s been easy, most people whoever they are work hard for it and take a lot of shit for it too, for me it’s a matter of good karma, so yes, good luck to Banksy, he obviously deserves it. As for saying it’s a big budget undergraduate show, well that was cheeky. Undergrads can often produce great works too. Still, I’m entitled to my opinion and I suppose that snootiness is a result of reading too much that it’s turned me into an armchair philosopher!

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