If anyone thinks that control systems and “Big Brother” are watching us and we can no longer hide our private lives, then he should learn the story of Banksy and Dismaland.
Who is Banks? Even Prince Charles wanted to know what face (or faces?) lie behind someone who is now considered one of the biggest street artist in the world. He is a graffiti artist, a political activist, a filmmaker and a painter. His works are illegal but are contained in million dollar auctions. Not bad for a revolutionary artist!
And now to tell what happened in the pleasant town of Weston-super-Mare, in Somerset, which had been in steady decline, as had many other towns since Monarch and Ryanair have made available the warm Mediterranean countries for a few pounds. Some say that as a child Banksy was on holiday here beside the Bristol Channel (Bristol his supposed birthplace).
Citizens of Weston-super-Mare had been told that the pool and the area of the Tropicana had been chosen by a Hollywood company, so called Atlas Entertainment, to film the thriller Grey Fox. There were signs all over the town and ongoing work to build what looked like a movie set.
People could see the emergence of a castle from the canvas that hid the work. And they didn’t mind if the castle did not have brilliant colours, the film had to be a thriller and its title already was a bit dark.
Everything was funded by the artist and the first doubts about what was really happening came in early August when his agent was seen in the area. The news was spread in the web and the first curious people came to try to understand what was happening.
With surprise, from 21 August to 27 September, Dismaland opened its doors: an amusement park “anti-Disney”. Art critics and spectators from around the world rushed to Weston-super-Mare in Somerset to see the installations of Banksy. His ten new works and works from another 58 artists who parodied consumerism and the schmaltz of the theme parks, a real trap for parents.
An incredible flow of people who paid for “being treated with contempt and with little grace” from all employees of the park, from Minnie really upset at the arrival, to the Gift Shop without gifts. People pass by Cinderella victims of an accident, to Donald with ISIS, to horse show operated by butchers, recounts just a few.
From the accounts of the BBC, there were 4,500 visitors per day, 300,000 tweets, 86,000 photos on Instagram and the video on Youtube was seen by 2.6 million people. It changed the local community’s economy and has created 20 million pounds of associated business.
For those who follow him, they expected something unique and a strong message against consumerism. Posts by Banksy, who uses stencils, songs or documentaries, always ridicule the capitalist system and wars. His drawings on the wall built by Israel – which separates it from Palestine – express in an elegant denounces all the violence of isolation. Those glimpses of tropical seas, that emerge strongly from grey concrete, are more effective than a thousand texts of useless words of disappointment.
I had heard of Banksy from an article that told how Prince Charles had rushed to see a mural when he was told that he might meet Banksy. Then I realized that his drawings are used in thousands of FB posts where no one quotes the author of the drawings. Now I am part of his followers too. But I hope he does not ever reveal his identity and that he will never fall into the traps of the ‘star’ system.
I will continue to dream that someone can “beat” the system, exit from the controls and be free. Someone who can continue to go to the most important museums in the world and hang his works along with those existing from the past. Days may pass before anyone realizes that in the eighteenth century there were no telephones and gas masks and that perhaps these works are not ‘original’.
For those wishing to see for free some of Dismaland they can go to Calais where the facilities will be installed to build shelters for migrants camped at the border. On his website, the ironic last message from Banksy reads:
“Coming soon … Dismaland Calais, without tickets online!”