Welcome to Dismaland, Banksy's Demented Bemusement Park For the 99%

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Dismaland's lagoon. Photo by Toby Melville/Reuters.

After much secrecy, street artist and anarchist extraordinaire Banky has transformed a derelict seaside resort into his largest project yet: a dystopian "family theme park unsuitable for small children” boasting a decrepit castle, a Grim Reaper, a mangled Cinderella, a predatory loan booth, a pond for boats jammed with dead bodies and asylum seekers, an armor-plated, Northern-Ireland-era riot control vehicle become a kids' slide, a representation of 3,000 riot police called in the aftermath of major civil unrest a surly assemblage of greeters wearing Mickey Mouse ears and t-shirts reading, "Dismal," and an array of seriously macabre art by 50 artists hand-picked by Banksy, plus 10 of his own pieces. One of those artists celebrated the venture by noting he'd "never seen so much sarcasm in one place." Dismaland opened Thursday to so much clamor its website instantly crashed; some stoically celebrated the "comically terrible experience" of trying to get tickets, while others wondered if that, too, was meant as dour commentary on the marvels of online industry.

Situated on an abandoned 2.5 acre site "in legendary Weston-super-Mare," Dismaland's dark exhibits range from amusement-park-themed goofy - a booth challenging contestants to Knock Down the Anvil! with a tennis ball, after which miracle you win the anvil - and politically pointed: A bus stop featuring instructions and for-sale tools to dismantle advertisements in order to replace them with your own posters, like one marking the 1,513 people who have died in police custody, and the zero police convictions that resulted. Its website touts the "entry-level anarchism (of) an alternative to the soulless sugar-coated banality of the average family day out...a chaotic new world where you can escape from mindless escapism. Bring the whole family to come and enjoy the latest addition to our chronic leisure surplus - a theme park whose big theme is theme parks should have bigger themes." From the elusive Banksy in one interview, “I hope everyone from Weston will take the opportunity to once more stand in a puddle of murky water eating cold chips to the sound of crying children.”

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Photos by Alicia Canter for The Guardian

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