Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Dismaland after dark: quick first impression

An eight-hour drive from Glasgow, complete with a 45-minute crawl nearing Birmingham on the M6, meant my 9.00pm Dismaland session tonight was always going to be a battle between art appreciation and overwhelming knackeredness.

Weston-Super-Mare itself is a cross between Largs and Ayr, with lumps of Aberdeen's Codona funfair thrown in. There is The Grand Pier, which was shut. And about 20 fish-and-chip shops, none of which were Frankie's of Brae. So I ate some Matteson's Spicy Chicken Fridge Raider Bites and was thankful. Oh, and some Oreos.

At 8.30pm, the herding had begun at Dismaland. The 'real' security guys were polite and helpful. No request for ID, despite the dire threats against ticket profiteers. The pretendy 'art installation' attendants were abusive and convincingly nasty, even throwing people out and plucking individuals from the crowd for searches. Only the obviously  vulnerable, though, which left a bad taste.

And the sour sense of a corrosive cynicism  just kept on coming, at least for me. Before I left Glasgow, number three son asked me, genuinely puzzled: "Why are you going to Dismaland? It's so...obvious." I replied that I liked the obvious when it came at you from unexpected angles, or was seen in a strange context. Which is how graffitti 'art' works.

But this. All this adolescent sneering, this monetised renegade embellishment of very simple ideas and messages, this (at its worst) dumb sloganeering...'Un-fuck the system" How? There's a weird moment when you find yourself among smiling, apparently genuine representatives of very old school political extremism from the anarchist and RCP school, all newspapers and Crass reprints. If that's a masquerade too it's not just cynical, it's a sad, terrible admission of political defeat.

Bank's own remote-control refugee boats and mediterranean naval interceptors 'game' packs an enormously emotional contemporary punch, but as you exit, inevitably through a really crap gift shop ("we're out of stock") there are youngsters signing brown paper bags and offering them for £50, possibly as a joke.

Anyway, as I say, I'm tired, it was dark. I'll go back tomorrow for another look. As I left I noticed a huddle of people crouched around a  roaring log fire. It seemed the only piece of genuine warmth in the entire ramshackle edifice. But that'll be where they burn the Jeffrey Archer books, presumably. I'm glad I didn't see that. A book is still a book. They're not for burning.

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