FTLO spent the day beside the seaside in Weston Super Mare to catch "Dismaland", Banksy's latest offering to the masses before it shut its doors to the public after a five week run.
We joined the queue at 10:30 for the 11am slot that day. There was already hundreds in the queue waiting to get their hands on the daily ticket release.
The queue consisted of people from all over the world and of all ages, which was great to see for a show of this kind. It felt like the scene from Willy Wonka where the kids with the golden tickets are waiting for the gates of Wonkaland to open and to get a glimpse of what awaited them inside.
Setting The Scene
Getting an early flight that morning to Bristol, we had already spent an hour or so in Weston Super Mare, which was a fitting location for Dismaland as this town is well past its glory days of the '50s and '60s when hundreds of thousands of holiday makers would flock there for summer holiday. Empty arcades, chained up merry-go-rounds, empty beaches and grey skies set the tone for what we were about to see.
Once the doors opened and the stewards grunted at us, we passed through a cardboard constructed security area created by Californian artist Bill Barminski, that consisted of card X-Ray machines and screens, even the security guards hats were cardboard! We looked for all the art we had seen online the previous weeks, in blogs and news reels. First up was the exhibition hall, which housed Irish artist Caroline McCarthy's large installation "Promise". Damien Hirst's large sculpture consisted of a giant beach ball suspended mid air air just above a bed of sharp knives.
Other highlights were Josh Keyes' stunning selection of prints and an original of his work that takes a satirical look at the impact urban sprawl has on the environment. Dietrich Wegner's mushroom cloud treehouse was a great sight to see in the flesh and it was the first time I had seen Zaria Forman's pastels of glacial landscapes, which blew me away, as on first view they look like photographs.
It was one of those rare shows where each artist appealed to me and in so many styles also. We hadn't even gone into the park section yet! Neta Harari Navon had large canvases in place, with a similar style to Conor Harrington, her work is based on press images of the evacuation of an Israeli settlement in West Bank. Paco Pomet had some amazing paintings of scarred landscapes which bled from within, such as trees sawn in half and split mountain ranges. I could go through each piece in the show, but these were my highlights along with Jimmy Cauty, of the '90s band The KLF, who created a large scale model of a post apocalyptic world that has been looted, burnt and the only people that remain are the police and the Queen.
Outside, Mike Ross' sculpture of two Oil tankers intertwined and snaked up to the sky. Punters played the dismal fairground games beneath where "Hook a Duck" is now "Hook a Duck from the Muck". The water was black like oil and the hooks were too big for the loops on the duck's head. The staff jeered and poked at visitors as they tried to score a prize of a fish finger in a plastic bag.
At this stage there were long queues for each of the tents so we went through the burnt out Princesse's castle to see Banksy's creation of Cinderella's coach which has crashed and her body is spilled out from within. She was surrounded by paparazzi and their flashing bulbs. An homage to the death of Princess Diana. We were quickly ushered out as many are holding up the queue taking selfies.
There was a small tent nearby that once inside resembled a gothic freak-show from the days of yore, but these disfigured animals and ceramic cups and saucers with fingers are of a higher pedigree. Damien Hirst's "Unicorn" suspended in a tank of formaldehyde sits at the back while some other eccentric creatures surrounded it. Scott Hove's snarling cakes hang on the wall and the detail in these pieces is incredible.
We spent the next hour wandering around the park taking in the surreal sights and taking some tourist-y snaps on the Banksy bench with a woman being attacked by seagulls. The deck chairs beside a Northern Irish riot control vehicle that had been turned into a children's slide with water spouting out of the water cannon was another bizarre site.
In all, this exhibition was a selection of some of the finest artists with a street art sensibility and pointed commentary on various social issues. Quite a unique show to have seen.