One year on, some of the team behind Banksy’s Dismaland (24 Aug – 27 Sept 2015) are back with a new creative offering which pays tribute to the provocative, damning political satire of the ‘Bemusement’ theme park. But this time, the message is ‘Don’t leave it up to Banksy!’. If you have something to say about an issue you care about”, say the organisers, “say it your way”.
The project which so far includes a book, exhibition and social media channel called ‘Are We There Yet?’ will be part-funded by a high-profile Kickstarter campaign, LIVE for the next four weeks, offering a host of unique rewards – including limited edition artworks and once in a lifetime experience. The producers themselves offer an unusual study course through the Kickstarter campaign, which teaches socially conscious creatives or ‘Firestarters’ how to market and crowdfund their work, and looks at how Banksy continues to ‘cut through’ and reach large audiences with his work.
The book and exhibition will especially appeal to the 150,000 UK and international visitors to Dismaland last year, and to the hundreds of thousands who applied for entry via the website, which crashed each time new tickets became available. But, as well as Banksy fans, the wider project – which is supported by a lively social media channel at @AreWeThereYetBk – is aimed at those interested in political expression, satire, counter-culture art and writing, and street photography.
Bristol street artist Felix (FLX) Braun, whose infamous ‘Kiss of Death’ mural featuring Boris Johnson kissing Donald Trump went viral around the world in June, pre-Brexit with over 900 million online hits is involved, and Dismaland Steward Farhath Siddiqui ‘The Face of Dismaland’ is helping to front video content and host crowdfunding reward experiences in Weston (Farhath is a 20 year old Weston-based film student, who Banksy recently asked to represent him at the Southbank Sky Arts awards ceremony, London).
Organisers are using crowdfunding to gather interest in the project and help fund the first print run of a high-quality photo book, called ‘Are We There Yet? Take a Trip to Banksy’s Britain’ and the first stage of a touring exhibition, which kicks off in September at the empty Dismaland site, later this year. Further venues have so far been offered in London, Bristol and Margate.
Author Tristan Manco who was part of the Dismaland programme, and designed the new book, says: “We took the question ‘Are we there yet?’ – a familiar refrain from the back of the car on a family seaside trip – as a basis for exploring the wider issues we face as a society: Where are we going? And when will we get there? What kind of place are we going to live in, in today’s globalised world?”
“Weston is an average British town affected by the issues touched on by Banksy’s Dismaland – such as our credit-fuelled economy highlighted by artist Darren Cullen’s Pocket Money Loans stand offering kids loans to “Help you buy the things you can’t afford” at 5,000% APR. Cawston juxtaposes his image of this artwork with his photograph of an advert for Wonga loans, a commonplace feature on Weston’s sea front.
Elsewhere Cawston pairs his photograph of a homeless person holding a sign reading “Life can change in an instant” contrasted with his image of Banksy’s artwork featuring a fat cat businessman and his over-laden dinner table, upending into a stagnant Dismaland pond – reminding us of the failings of our social care system and inequalities in society.”
The social media element of the project captures the lively ‘state of the nation’ political discussion, happening across the UK and globally, encouraging the spread of creative content contributed by the public. The @AreWeThereYetBk channel (on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – hashtag #QuestionEverything) invites people everywhere to get involved and express the issues they care passionately about through their photographs, video, and writing.
Young Bristol-based social entrepreneur Sean Buchan whose Bristol-based team is leading the online campaign says: “The aim of our social media platform is to help effect positive social change by encouraging and empowering the public to take an active stake in society, by harnessing their collective voice on the issues that affect their daily lives, and ultimately bringing about change at grassroots level – overcoming the obstacles inherent in the framework of traditional politics.”
Kath Cockshaw, Producer, Hopper Projects (London) who is leading the ‘Firestarter’ courses, adds: “Banksy is a longstanding champion of using creative expression as a tool to engage the collective public consciousness around political issues of the day. History is littered with instances of single images serving as a powerful catalyst for social and political change, such as the recent image of the drowned refugee toddler on the beach impacting David Cameron’s change in his stance on child refugees. As the old adage goes, ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ – and this becomes even more relevant in the new age of social media.
The overarching aim of this project is to provoke original thought untarnished by media intervention and to encourage political activity which can help to make the world a better place. Please do join the conversation using the hashtag #QuestionEverything!”
Book details: The Are We There Yet? the book is published by the Drugstore Gallery in association with Hopper Projects. The book was designed by Barry Cawston and Tristan Manco and edited by Kath Cockshaw. Full list of contributors: Barry Cawston, photographer; Tristan Manco, Dismaland artist; Farhath Siddiqui, Dismal steward ‘The Face of Dismaland’; Felix Braun (FLX), street artist; Rachel Hobson, secondary school teacher; Kath Cockshaw, creative produce
The idea forAre We There Yet?started with hundreds of photographs which Cawston took of Dismaland and its Weston locality, day and night, over several weeks. The photographic book allows audiences to easily compare and contrast images of e.g. anti-capitalist art in Dismaland with photographs of homeless people on Weston streets, and pictures of Banksy’s heinous model refugee boats with family seaside jaunts. In other image pairings, lines between life and art completely disappear and stories get even darker.
The art in Dismaland included some of Banksy’s darkest work yet on themes such as media control, the death of Diana, and the refugee crisis was designed to make us question the state of society. In the same vein, Cawston’s images scream “where the hell are we going?”
Cawston highlights his aptly named‘A Pig in a Poke’ photograph – of a pig-masked reveller in front of an anti-capitalist artwork by Kennard Phillips at the Dismaland closing party – which has been widely shared on social media, as an example of how a multi-layered interpretation of an image can contribute to political commentary on issues of the day.
He says: “If you think about it, as well as the obvious Cameron/pig gag, the whole Brexit debacle could be summed up by this one photograph. Most people didn’t really know what they were buying into when they voted to leave the EU – In many ways, they were sold a pig in a poke!”