The people of Dismaland

I recently visited the Dismaland attraction in Weston-Super-Mare, England.  This is/was an art exhibition/”bemusement park” curated by the artist Banksy.  It was sold out within minutes of tickets being available, and I was very lucky to have been able to go twice.

I did photograph the artworks, but part of the beauty of the experience was the staff.  They had been trained to act miserable all the time.  Some were quite wonderful at it, and have a career in Customer Services ahead of them.

The staff in the park wore ears that looked very like Mickey Mouse’s, and had jackets with the word “DISMAL” on the back.  This guy was a perfect example, and encouraged everyone to have an unhappy time.

"Dismal portrait - exhibit"

There was an exhibit on a large fairground roundabout.  It was a slaughterman who had just killed one of the roundabout’s horses for meat.  He was spattered with blood and was sitting on large cardboard boxes labelled “Lasagne”.  It was a comment on the horsemeat scandal.

The people attending the show were as interesting as the exhibits.  There was a bench with a sculpture of a woman being attacked by seagulls.  There was space for visitors to sit next to it and have their picture taken.  My eye was caught by the way the woman’s hijab framed her beautiful face.

On the other side of the park there was a place you could take a selfie.  It gave people a chance to take a selfie with no background other than the white board and the words “SELFIE HOLE”.   At one point there was a queue of people waiting to do this.  It was fascinating to watch, as they could have got a selfie the other way with the park in the background.  There’s little bit of “Heeere’s Johnny!” from the film “The Shining” about this one…

Was I bemused at the “bemusement park”?  Yes, but fascinated too.  I was there at the same time as photographer Martin Parr, and would be very interested to see his images.

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