It’s difficult to find someone who hasn’t heard of the Bemusement park Dismaland, Banksy’s parody of the pinnacle of capitalist entertainment, Disneyland.
The show closed its doors the other day, earning ca,£20m for the local community, some £7m for the railroad, and £450K on £3 entry tickets sold to 150K visitors over the six weeks it stayed open.
I don’t think Banksy the Revolutionary, known for his fear to be seen as a capitalist, has earned anything himself on this, though the value of his present and future works must have got a jab of PR so powerful his more capitalistic brothers-in-arts have gone green with envy.
Much has been written already about the financial irony of this anti-capitalistic fair, but I guess Andy Warhol said it all when he painted his dollar sign, officially announcing that post-modernism, as an anti-capitalistic movement, died when Andy’s one-dollar bills started selling for more than one dollar (recently it sold for $37 million). Revolutionaries becoming capitalists? Freedom fighters turning into dictators? It all has happened so many times already we all should tattoo an Yin & Yang symbol on the forehead and stop getting agitated each time another Russel Brand posts a preaching video on YouTube.
Vivienne Westwood, who used to be a rebellious punk of post-modernist design at the time, could enlighten us all about this transformation, were she not, mentally, completely out to lunch (I can’t consider a multi-millionaire, urging the poor who can’t afford organic food to eat less, a sane person).
A revolutionary anti-capitalistic artist generates revolutionary profits for capitalists. Isn’t it a great example of modern capitalism’s ability to consume revolutions for breakfast?
My big question is about people who went to Dismaland; people who would queue for hours to get in, pay many times the face value of the entry ticket, splash on trains, hotels, and restaurants to spend a few hours watching art and getting abused by the park’s staff, trained, as I understand, to abuse.
Why would anyone want to suffer through all of this to get in?
Were the artworks so great they required direct contact to be appreciated?
Let’s see some of the stuff.
This obvious reference to Diana’s death and the general mass media’s infatuation with blood-soaking sensations is cutely sarcastic, but does it make the observer think up any new ideas? Does it make the observer feel something that would change the course of his or her future actions? Frankly, I doubt it. Mass media enjoys it when someone’s poking fun at its evil nature because it doesn’t seem so evil then.
Of course a show like that couldn’t bypass the refugee crisis.
Visitors could pilot a police boat or fight on the refugee side, playing hide&seek around the pond.
Does this cute little show really address the burning issues? Well, no. Because the issue is whether the Western middle class is prepared to pay more taxes to accommodate refugees financially and is also ready to abandon some of the freedoms it enjoys in favour of the refugee culture and religion. Does the exhibit address it? Of course not. Modern revolutionaries love playing it safe.
From what I have seen and read, the show organisers claimed Dismaland was meant to be a plunge into the grim reality of modern life, challenges, and society’s pains and ills.
From what I have seen and read, I couldn’t find a single artwork that would really be an artwork that requires physical presence to appreciate it, that would be clever enough to address a real issue (and not an already known, discussed, dissected, and often resolved one), and that would be, ultimately, emotionally exciting or interesting.
I suspect, very contrary to the organisers’ intent, this show was not about the grim reality. It blanketed the real issues artists should be talking about. Or, perhaps, this was exactly the intent. Why else would Damien Hirst, an idea-thief, market manipulator, and owner of creative slaves, join the party?
This is Damien Hirst at his best: delivering cheap thrills under “clever” metaphysical names. For me, this is the iconic exhibit in this whole show. A show which didn’t talk about anything serious, discussed the already resolved, and satirized the obvious. A smirking show.
I feel Banksy and his team have gone soft and complacent. It’s time he painted his own dollar sign. Or not?
What do you think? If you visited it, please share the exhibits that made you think about something new, changed your attitude, or worked at least in some way except making you smirk.
PS I don’t doubt for a second the high commercial value of a show that makes people smirk, of course.