Saturday, 22 August 2015

Dismaland - Banksy in Weston Super Mare


Weston-super-Mare
22nd August – 27th September 2015

All photos: NoLionsInEngland except Dismaland logo courtesy www.banksy.co.uk


It has been a while, street art has been mired in the doldrums. There has been too many art graduates choosing careers as muralists, not enough vandals (particularly from America) and a prolonged period of inactivity from Banksy. Well, one of those has been fixed.

Banksy has taken over a bankrupt and decaying seaside amusement barely rising above the sludgy worm ridden mud flats of the Severn Estuary in Weston Super Mare. I grew up in Wales looking out of a bedroom window on the other side of the estuary looking at WSM's twinkling lights imagining untold foreign glamour - an illusion now ruined. "For the next five weeks the Tropicana [its previous incarnation] will once again echo to the sound of crying children". Thanks Banksy!


from www.Banksy.co.uk


It's not exactly Thorpe Park but Banksy has managed to amp up the scale of the art and the location, making this exhibition provides a worthy successor to 2008's Cans Festival and 2009's Banksy v. Bristol Museum. Banksy has dealt with humour and he has dabbled with spoof children’s rides in the past - remember the riot cop on the pony ride in the 2009 Bristol show - this event puts those themes on turbo boost.

The central feature of the park, poised in the middle of a stagnant, shit filled pond is a derelict oily looking castle straight out of a Disney landscape re-imagined by, say, Mutoid Waste (but...although Joe Rush is included in the catalogue I didn't see any mechanoid file belching steampunk shit like you'd expect).

 Dismaland Castle


Inside the castle is a crashed pumpkin coach with a dead princess spilling out off the window with papparazzi photographers capturing the kind of graphic gore that daily pad out our tabloids.  It's more a critique on media intrusion than an unlikely empathy with the Royal family.


Banksy



Shit filled pond (sometimes it's the attention to detail that is all important)


How about the Banksy art? Well, Banksy wasn't the first to use for counter cultural humour and he has inspired many followers and as there are no labels it is not always easy to be certain what is Banksy and what just might be. Fans of Banksy as stencillist will be bowled over by the use of corrugated wall cladding as a shower curtain under which a pair of boys watch (perhaps) one of their mums showering - a teenage fantasy staple apparently!


Banksy


The catalogue says that Banksy did the woman attacked by seagulls, in which case where is the work by taxidermist Polly Morgan as advertised on the list of artists? [there may have other work by Polly Morgan tucked away in the "gallery" which might have been missed].


Banksy - he says it's his so it must be


Political reaction to one of biggest humanitarian crises ever is lampooned by Banksy’s boat pond. Fully functioning radio controlled rust buckets bearing a cramped cargo of shivering migrants scoot around an oily sea with scattered floating bodies harassed by gun boats and no, that isn’t a lighthouse, it’s a gun tower defending the mother land.


Banksy



Banksy


A rather fast and slightly distressed carousel whizzes around with its screaming human cargo plus a manikin wearing white overalls. When the merry-go-round stops we see a brilliant sculpture of a butcher with a roundabout horse hanging from its hooves about to enter the food chain, clearly referencing last year’s horsemeat in processed food scandal.  Is it Banksy? Not sure but it has his humorous twist on mass produced "budget" price point food prioritizing profit over welfare.


Banksy?


Some of the pieces have a sense of déjà vu as Banksy returns to old themes and repetition of previous jokes. Pollution and wild beasts in captivity? Here’s your killer whale performing tricks out of a toilet into a pool much too small for it. Death dances the macabre in his bumper car to the tune of “Don’t Fear The Reaper”, an exact reprise of its appearance in 2013 for the “Better Out Than In” residency on the streets of New York.


Banksy


Part of the outer ramparts of Dismaland look like what the facade of a Disney castle would look like if some incontinent political prisoners held a dirty protest from its walls. On one of these ramparts seemed to be a bar, you had to be up there to operate the levers that animated a Paul Insect/Bast collaborative puppet theatre made from thrown away shit retrieved from Hackney Wick. Sadly the bar was too popular doing what bars do, no one bothered operating the puppets. Photo not included.

One of the best "bemusements" was "Pocket Money Loans", a small and rather specialised finance boutique by Darren Cullen fast-tracking the next generation of debt service slaves into a life of financial "chimney sweeping". A chilling ensemble of beautifully fabricated spoof toys accelerate young innocents to a variety of worldy experiences at far too young an age – Baby's baby is pregnant!


Darren Cullen


Like all mediocre fun fairs there are a range of amusements designed to engage and interact with, right from the moment you enter through Bill Barminski’s stark X-Ray search spoof.


Bill Barminski


Dismal "experience enhancement operatives" conduct niche performance art posing as miserable, unhelpful buggers, though perhaps it wasn't a faked performance in some cases.  Dotted around the park are seedy looking games you throw things at, shoot guns at, fish from, ride, pose with (Lush’s photo boards), just remember to wash your hands afterwards.


 David Shrigley - Topple The Anvil (for a Meaningless prize)










Banksy's previous group shows have been high impact fast food comedy art, you got it quick and
moved on. At Dismaland there are installations which could keep you engrossed for frankly hours without football transfer news or porn being mentioned once. Go to Guerilla Island, the art is political, conspiracy theories are the common denominator, it is epic working class trade union banners and a "Comrade Advice Bureau" among many other anarchist agendas, some not so "entry level" as touted in Dismaland's website.  A stand of political literature and anarchist manifestos rejoices in a name which itself subverts the trademark of a well known (in the UK anyway) high street bookshop.


No Borders


Perhaps the most practical nugget dug up were the "Guide To Interacting With Bus Stop Advertising Spaces" lying in a photocopier out-tray.

The work of Ed Hall first came to lower general public indifference thanks to artist Jeremy Deller (the odds of either them ever featuring in Graffoto again are pretty long!).   Banksy takes us outside our comfort zone and reveals art where we least expected it: outdoor walls, union banners, polluted cesspits and so on, this is a key part of the essential magic of a Banky production.


Ed Hall & others


|As the the fairground bemusements are so overwhelming (-ly dismal) it is too easy to enter the actual indoor gallery part and think "oh - Art. I'd rather be overwhelmed by the fairground bemsements", which is exactly what I did think. The show stopper is Jimmy Cauty's model village, an installation he has titled "Aftermath Displacement Principal",  This is his Jam Jar Riots gone on a viral rampage. In a darkened room police crawl all around sink estate crime scene detritus, depending upon where you come from it's either incredibly life like or impressive model making.


Jimmy Cauty - Aftermath Displacement Principle


Canvasses, sculpture and photography abounds by artists from GB, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Curiously, little or  no work seems to come from the Far East unless you count Australia.  Bringing these talents into our consciousness in this bemusement park is a doomed venture as the outside works won’t release you from their grip, the inside art feels like something to be swiftly whizzed through before heading back out into the sensory overload of the main park.


Banksy



Jeff Gillette (USA)

Looking at Jeff Gillette's painting above, he is clearly having a little subversive fun at the expene of Disneyland and indeed the whole branding of Dismaland is a gnat's appendage away from the Disney theme park brand.  Banksy of course has previous with Disney having created the Guantamo prisoner alongside the Florida Disneyland Space Mountain, as documented quite comprehensively in his 2011 film "Exit Through The Gift Shop".


This is undoubtedly another Banksy master piece so it's interesting to ponder what’s new? Certainly the art hung on the walls indoors is by artists from more diverse geographic, cultural and creative backgrounds than say Cans Festival.  In 2008 Banksy opened our eyes to two things, the huge world of international stencillists doing more than just illegal single layer stencil work, remember until Cans Festival none of us had heard of Vhils!   This time round it seems likely that more than just a few of the exhibited artists have never tagged a toilet cubicle never mind put up a piece of illegal street art or some hit and run graffiti.

Secondly, he taught us we could all be stencil artists. This time he is clearly going beyond the stencil technique and indeed beyond the confines of the street art straitjacket.

What remains the same?  The Banksy philosophy, art is for everyone. No need to risk a brief intrusion into a posh intimidating gallery, here we are all welcome and it doesn't matter whether we "get" art or not.  The scale of the production is also phenomenal. It is interesting to recall that Banksy’s two most recent British epics were done aided and abetted by Steve Lazarides,  Dismaland ranks right up alongside any of the vast undertakings Lazarides has staged in the past, the apprentice does not need the master!




What's missing? The art-by-anyone "rock up and spray" element that was such a huge success at the 2008 Cans Festival for a start.


Judging by the photographs used in the couple of days leading up to Dismaland’s opening to ramp up the hype, there are a few pieces such as Ben Long’s scaffolding horse which it seems are expected to become visual set piece images of the show. I don’t get it, cant see the meaning or a relevant context for the piece other than it something you don't expect to see scaffolding being used for.  At least it photographs nicely at night.




What could be added? Well an explanation of the term "neoliberalism"  which appears in the catalogue (Dr Gavin Grindon) for a start,  Banksy’s purpose is to expand our spirit of adventure and develop a broader appreciation of art which probably ought not to be allowed, not to look up dictionaries.




What is the most subversive thing Banksy does this time? Probably introducing into popular culture the work of artists, many from the middle east, who are making direct, well structured anti establishment political art. It is insidiously placed among the "easy green" idealogy and the dismal jokes.


Banksy? some think so


Heading back to London on the last train before the milk train i receive a text advising that the fireworks were good, they aren't supposed to be good, they should be damp squibs!


Monday, 3 August 2015

Skeleton Cardboard: Not In Use

71 Redchurch St
1 August 2015, one day only

Photos: NoLionsInEngland except 71RCS where stated


Every now and again someone comes along whose art stands apart from the rest of the street art canon. A few years back quirky skeletons started to live a somewhat traumatised and confused life on Shoreditch wall. Thus began an unconsummated love affair with the work of street artist Skeleton Cardboard.

He has worked big




And he has worked small




He has done stickers




and paste ups on vintage paper










He has collaborated with other artists


Skeleton Cardboard vs Nathan Bowen



"D7606 - your cheque is in the post"


We have found even free skeleton cardboard art on the street (but of course guests on my daytime job street art tour are always given the excitement of keeping those cool free art pieces)


Sarah & Lisa, 2013


This weekend we spied an open door in a Shoreditch cottage and we were beckoned in, “this is someone’s front room but be welcome” we were told, Skeleton Cardboard was having a pop up one day art show in someone’s house.


Photo: 71RCS

Now, the idea of an art show in the home is not specially new, what is different on this occasion is that those events are usually staged in an art world “insider’s” cool loft; the owner is either the artist, a friend or perhaps a gallerist. Skeleton Cardboard’s host is no art world insider at all, merely someone living in Shoreditch who didn’t chase Skeleton Cardboard off aggressively enough and once he had a toe in the door SC made himself at home.


Photo: 71RCS


Certain influences in Skeleton Cardboard’s work are quite obvious, day-of-the-dead; Basquiat. Skeleton Cardboard re-contextualises the health & safety warnings and propaganda that we all encounter in our daily lives and with an understated intelligence and wit he illuminates previously unsuspected sinister aspects. You look at his charming skeleton characters with their "death words" and think “yeahhhh, spooky, I hadn’t thought of it like that before;”


Photo: 71RCS



Photo: 71RCS


The atmosphere inside the “gallery” was warm and welcoming, none of the snooty aloofness of the posh west end galleries or the “we tolerate you lurkers, chatters and free beer gluggers until the first excuse to throw you out because our real priority is the 10 people on our email list who actually buy shit”.


Photo: 71RCS


Rich, to whom thanks are due for the photographs that accompany this blog post, has lived on Redchurch Street for years and like your author fell in love with Skeleton Cardboard’s work. A chance encounter with Skeleton Cardboard’s work in Monty’s Bar led to Skeleton Cardboard being invited to place a mural on a garage door to Rich’s property about a year ago.




Rich has over the years tolerated and enjoyed some fantastic street art on the externals of his property including a spectacular ROA squirrel, works by C215, Elbow Toe, Anthony Lister, Jim Vision and currently Skeleton Cardboard, Cityzenkane and James Bullough. Rich is sadly moving out of Redchurch St as the home goes the way of most property on Redchurch St – redevelopment. This pop up show by Skeleton Cardboard is sort of one final hurrah for a very cool Shoreditch spirit. This event was really reminiscent of the old days when the gap between the art on the streets and the work in the galleries wasn’t the gaping conceptual chasm that it is these days. In Rich’s words “For me, this was a fitting end to an incredible time living here. And for 24 hours it felt like Shoreditch used to. RIP 71RCS”.

Couldn’t say it any better.


Photo: 71RCS

Link: Skeleton Cardboard facebook

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Meeting Of Styles UK 2015

Shoreditch, London
10 - 12 July 2015

all photos: NoLionsInEngland


Meeting Of Styles returned to Shoreditch last week for the second Summer on the trot. Over a 2 day period spraycan graffiti writers and street artists from Brazil to Russia via Spain and UK threw a wild ribbon of colour around Shoreditch.

Ekto & friends


Meeting of Styles is an international and not-for-profit federation of spraycan festivals, this year 22 MoS festivals around the world are responding to the “Mind Above Matter” theme

Brick Canvas Central if we can call it that was a dramatically transformed elbow of land trapped between a knot of railway tracks now under new ownership and currently renamed the Nomadic Community Gardens.



A primarily Bangladeshi community has transformed the Fleet St Hill end of the gardens with raised beds of allotments while a temporary village of tents, vans and dens of upcycled wood and canvas housed kitchens, bars, decks and admin.



The set piece featured wall on the Fleet Hill Arch was this year tackled by a multinational crew on Mind Above Matter theme (last year: men and beasts), artists making appearances on this huge collaboration are: Tyme (Swe), Adno (Rus), Awone (Swe), DJa’Louz (Fr) and from the UK Jim Vision, Zadok and below them Kak, Ekto and Wisher. You have to get close this year to the wall to appreciate the letter mastery and intricate details in the background, which wasn't the case at MOS UK 2014 when the grafftiti writers rolled a lot more images into the composition.




Wall locations were geographically more wide spread this year, the centre of weight shifted over to the Bethnal Green side of Brick Lane with some painting taking place even further east than the Nomadic Community Gardens. The walk from Nomadic Gardens yields awesome examples of 3D lettering included these pieces by Ebee, Zase and OG Hush.

Ebee


OG Hush


Zase


Up on Redchurch Street, OTwo and Andrrea Riot entertained the crowds with their abstract background and calligraphic “graffuturism”. That background is awesome, the calligraffiti reads Wizard Kings. Or perhaps Wizard Kinggs. Or maybe something else completely different.




Continuing the graffuturist or “post graffiti” theme, Stendec from the wilderness north of the wall and Soma painted this amazing piece east of the Nomadic Community Gardens

Stendec / Soma


It is very easy and actually common for those close to the culture to see Meeting Of Styles as a letterform based graffiti shindig but it actually has always aimed to be wider and all embracing. Traditional bubble letters and wild style sit happily alongside the abstract and the calligraphy based. Signwriting fonts converse with characters. No stencils though, no surprise there!

Auto 1


Morgazmik / FPLO


If you happened to park your van somewhere and returned to find it defaced by Masai and Airborne Mark like this you would have to have a heart of lead not to be excited.

Masai


Airborne Mark


Neoh continues to create work raising awareness of mental health issues, this is believed to be first example of pure face portraiture rather than figurative beauties from Neoh. Given the nudity that has crept into his figures recently it was probably a good call location to focus just on faces in this community!

Neoh (Ldn)


There was even sculpture from Joel Dean from Ireland though some of the improvised seating, shelter and indeed cooking arrangements also took on the appearance of sculpture.

Joel Dean (Odisy in background)


It is proper to give a salute to visiting international artists who trekked to Shoreditch to participate in this London edition of MoS.


Fumero (NYC)


Jotace is from Barcelona and found space alongside Morgazmik and the awesomely productive FPLO from Brazil.

Jotace

Polish born now London based Ewelina Koszykowska threw a veil over this female figure.

Ewelinak


Quite a few of the Meeting of Styles artists took advantage of being in London to go a bit off piste with other walls away from the organised Meeting of Styles locations. FPLO from Brazil popped up in a couple of locations.

FPLO (Bra)


FPLO (Bra)


Adno found time to pull off this beauty on a gate just off Brick Lane.

ADNO (Rus)


The festival ranges beyond the multiplicity of painting styles to include hip hop and beatboxing, street food, soul food and have-a-go workshops.

Unknown B-Boxer


There was actually genuinely something for everyone and the whole event was accompanied by a wonderfully chilled and relaxed vibe. Apart from the amazing painting by the Meeting OF Styles artists, this plot of land is well worth visiting to see how the community have transformed it with their collective urban agriculture spirit.

Just for fun to end with, some "work-in-progress" action shots from the Sunday:

Auto 1


Gent 48 (Birmingham)