Bansky’s ill-mannered artistic outlet: Dismaland turns into refuge camp in Calais

Having assembled Dismaland a few weeks ago, Bansky is dismantling the whole park and then once again re-assembling it, but this time in Calais and as a refugee camp

Dismaland - photo credit: Flickr/ Ben K Adams

Dismaland – photo credit: Flickr/ Ben K Adams

I don’t know what to think of Banksy. I really, don’t! While many are trying to order art above politics, he is vehemently trying to set art in line with politics. Starting with his new creature, the Dismaland, he’s already raised some heavy questions. But as we know,  even a bad review is a useful review, so I decided to skip writing up that one.

But here we are, five weeks later, and Banksy managed to be a headline again. And without a doubt, he is a genius. He is maneuvering amongst the mainstream-led pathways sleekly, and there is no better word: he is maneuvering beautifully.

First, – sarcastically or not, we’re never going to know his truism – he built an outdoor art gallery going against all kind of norms society has unconsciously followed ever since art, culture, and politics has been around. And it worked! He sold thousands of tickets; he got all the headlines, people went crazy, and he put £20 million into his pocket. Tourism got better; headlines got fuzzier, artists got starred at, and even the Israeli-Palestine problem (that seems to appear no matter what)  got a solid angling. (Surprise on that one). A true, Banksy-style success.

But what’s happening now goes beyond the usual Banksy-reaching-out-of-everyone’s-comfort-zone kind of move. Banksy becomes political. (Sure, it is not the first time that he takes sides, but spraying a mural questioning Israel’s just is still something that I can consider as artist’s right and freedom).

However, now, Bansky is opening a refugee camp. But not just a place out there with gates and shelters. No, he redefines Dismaland as an artsy refugee camp. As obscure as it sounds, it is happening.

As if he would have already planned it while displaying – as one of the highlights at Dismaland – a controversy boat filled with refugees.

Dismaland- Photo credit. Flickr/ Jo Cox

Dismaland- Photo credit. Flickr/ Jo Cox

I wonder what will happen with the initial “festival of art” slogan of Dismaland. Should it turn into the festival of refugees? Or would that go too far even for him?

It’s hard not to be emotional here. Hard not to judge this gesture when Europe is sinking under the flow of refugees, or immigrants, as you wish to call them. (Pretty undecided terms nowadays)

I don’t know what’s behind the gesture. Is there anything at all? Did he consider the effects (direct and shadowed) for a second, or is this just a great, new, joke for him? Or would he really want to make a genuine gesture here?

But let’s give some arguments here. Since any opinion can be loud by emotions, but without facts, it is simply without sound.

There are over 210,000  first-time asylums seekers in the EU today. This is not the result of some 20-years of slow influx. This number added up within the last nine months.

Without being too political, Angela Merkel took quite a role in how these numbers got out of control. (We got political, didn’t we?) 

You have two options. You can either agree with Hungarian PM Orban, who says we need to protect our borders. And listen carefully between the lines as he says it: he doesn’t close the borders per se, but he does want to get some control over an uncontrolled mass of people coming and going as they wish, choosing which country to settle, while refusing even the smallest legal obligations.

Or you can agree with the more liberal approach and welcome any incoming asylum seekers with banners and cheers.

Either one you choose, you need to bear the consequences:

– One: building the fence, you are defined as inhuman.

– Two: allowing all to come in without any control, you are facing with thousands and thousands of undocumented people.

Opening up a refugee camp to help the refugees tends to picture the second outcome. A human gesture with unseen consequences. Thus, Banksy, going against his own conservative government (he is, of course, free to do so), he seems to agree with the uber-liberals, who only skipped sending a personal invitation for refugees to come to Europe.

But some things to consider while we take sides. And taking sides comes with an extra liability if someone is an established artist, such as Banksy.

  • Out of the 212,000 only 22,000 are from Syria. All others are coming from Afghanistan, Albania, Iraq, Kosovo and Russia, in this respective order. So, once again, helping refugees is nice, but are you really helping refugees?

  • At least two kids got injured as their parents threw them above the security fence in Hungary while others got injured as their parents (primarily 20-30 aged men) used them as human shields. So, once again, helping refugees is nice, but are you really helping refugees?

But no more politics, we are artists. So just one (complex) question Bansky:

Do you think the people, who are leaving dirt, literally shitting on the train that carries them, using kids as their shields, going into knife-fights against each other, and a great number of them are traveling with a fake Syrian passport (easily accessible for a 200 bucks) will really appreciate your gesture?
Will they really appreciate your Art?

Won’t you mind if they cripple it?

Break and damage it?

Or as I childishly indicated before, piss on it?

But even if you don’t care, what about the artists whose works are on display?

And as Banksy says, “No online tickets will be available.” Sure not, but indirectly you are selling lots of tickets to the hands of human smugglers. Are you sure your Art was meant for this?

I don’t know what to think of Banksy. If moving Dismaland to Calais is just another self-promo, then it is deemed to fail. If this is a genuine gesture seeking the way to help, then think again, who is this gesture for?

Think again, it’s not too late. You got £20 million in your pockets. Here are some ideas what you could do: make a school for the legally registered asylum seekers, teach art to kids, paint another wall with your cool ideas, etc. You have all the resources you need to do something good, but this is not one of them.

Ps. I still love your graffiti, though!


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