On 08/20/2015, Weston Super marea coastal town in south-west England, for five weeks gloomy land“a park of entry-level arts, amusements, and anarchism,” as described by banksyour creator. gloomy land is a pun between Disneyland and gloomy (Melancholy or discouragement in English), an anonymous version of what amusement parks usually sell. With the simulation of an apocalyptic urban landscape, the artist wanted to question the role of art, museums as a typology, companies and speculative work markets. It housed works by Banksy himself and 58 other artists, including Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Jimmy Cauty, Bill Barminski, Caitlin Cherry, Polly Morgan, Josh Keyes, Mike Ross, David Shrigley, Bäst and Espo, among others.
Banksy chose Weston-super-Mare, where he lived for more than 50 years Tropicana, one of the biggest tourist attractions on the English coast. The complex consisted of a two-story Art Deco building and a lido of more than 950 square meters, better known as The pool, the largest outdoor pool in Europe at the time. In 2000, its doors were closed after falling into an irreversible crisis in the 1990s. Since then there have been several unsuccessful attempts take back Tropicanaand reached a point where the city council warned those who still occupied this space and used it as an illegal dump against its demolition.
Relevant in this case, this English city was chosen by Banksy not only to talk about decadence, but also to express criticism and dissatisfaction with current theme parks. According to the artist in an interview in Guardian, “they should present larger themes, not fictional reality”. To maintain anonymity, the Dismaland filmmakers teamed up with Weston-super-Mare City Council to build this art attraction, which took about a month to complete. Official information suggests that a Hollywood film called Gray Fox was filmed to avoid suspicion from local residents.
When Dismaland opened its doors, there were queues of more than four hours to enter the venue as the official website stopped working due to the huge number of visits to buy tickets. It is suggested that making it more difficult to buy – forcing the public to wait in long lines – may have been part of the strategy. With much controversy and a sense of humor, Banksy has once again created an impressive body of work that generates thousands of experiences through art and culture.
Seven years after this intervention, the panorama of the city has changed radically. Before the opening of Dismaland, politicians and senior City Council officials already envisioned Weston-super-Mare as a modern, contemporary residential town where housing, education and quality of life would be the town’s strengths. During the festival, the economic benefit was estimated at eight million euros, predicting that the city would once again be a new reference point on the UK map. But the reality is that in just five weeks, Dismaland attracted 200,000 visitors, boosted the economy by €23m and placed Weston at the heart of Britain’s arts and culture scene.
In just five weeks, Dismaland attracted 200,000 visitors, boosted the economy by £20m and placed Weston at the heart of Britain’s arts and culture scene.
Such was the impact that North Somerset Council committed to building on Dismaland’s exceptional success over the next few years by investing in the Tropicana venue to bring more events and artists to the town. It should be noted that Covid-19 has been a major challenge for the entertainment and events industry, but the park team has continued to work to find new ways to reach the public through social media and technology.
Recently the space was chosen to house an artistic installation by the name See monsters, which promises to (again) attract an international audience. It is one of ten commissioned works within the framework of the UNBOXED: Creativity in Britain, also called Brexit Festival: an initiative announced in 2018 by the post-Brexit Conservative government and renamed UNBOXED. The See Monster is an outdoor environmental attraction consisting of a dismantled sea platform for the public to enjoy their program of activities.
It is supported by North Somerset Council and will open this summer. It will include gardens, waterfalls, a broadcast studio and an amphitheater where six key themes – science, technology, engineering, arts, environment and heritage – will be encouraged and supported, as explained on the website. Additionally, with a commitment to invest in renewable technology, North Somerset Council is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 and ensuring this body helps promote that goal.
On the institutional side, they’re already assuring that the See Monster team doesn’t have a budget for community events, so this installation seems more destined to attract capital to the city. Without a doubt, Banksy’s legacy has left its mark on this English seaside town, showing the power of territory and how government agencies dangerously grasp and capitalize on the impact Dismaland has created. Not only has it been shown that art can emerge from anomalous and desolate places, but it can also be the starting point from which various mechanisms adopt its legacy to implement its own desires and directives.