Although I had no intention of going to Dismaland, despite finding the concept intriguing, I was encouraged to go when my flatmate suggested a last-minute trip there on the weekend. We decided to try our luck getting tickets on the day, and as it turned out the five hour wait to get to the ticket booth was the perfect start to one very strange experience.
Grumpy security guards, moody staff in Mickey Mouse hats, and a theme park that looked like it was built by Steptoe & Son formed the surface of an experience that was a broken emotional ferris wheel ride – amusement, anxiety, fear, sadness, and disillusionment looping round like the twangy country muzak that blared through tinny loudspeakers between feedback.
Welcome to Dismaland
A fairground-style game called “Topple the Anvil”, where you paid £1 for three ping pong balls, and £7 pizzas that were deliberately bad were at the amusing end of the scale for me. At the opposite end of the scale was what waited inside the castle – wrapping the experience up in a bow of social commentary that made me feel like I'd been sucker-punched by Gaston.
I still haven't decided what it all means, only that what it means makes me feel bad in a funny way. The irony of it makes your head spin – children happily walking round this entertainingly unsatisfying experience, people buying expensive souvenirs of a work of art that yells about the emptiness of commercialised experiences (and Dismaland appears happy to commercialise itself in order to prove its point), and people (myself included) taking pictures of things that mock you for taking pictures of them.
Modern art doesn't usually do much for me, and while previously I've found Banksy's work appealing and iconic I wouldn't have called myself a fan of his either. After visiting Dismaland I'd call myself a convert in both cases, having never been so affected by something that called itself art before, and wasn't a movie or a piece of music.
I didn't go home and cry myself to sleep, but since visiting I've been pre-occupied by trying to untangle the whole experience and its meaning. And just like the real Disneyland (which I'm also a fan of) I'd definitely go back – though I'm not sure why.
Although the last time I watched LOST was in 2010 the show has left a deep imprint in my mind in a way only a few other shows (mainly Twin Peaks and The Simpsons) have. Its legacy in my brain includes seeing 'the numbers' everywhere and wanting to grab a stick of dynamite any time I see a mysterious looking hatch.
Recently though I came across a building worthy of the Dharma Initiative down at Berry Head in Brixham while on a coastal walk. It's actually a VOR/DME beacon used for air traffic control but looks like it belongs on the Island, especially with the addition of a few DI Logos...
Dartmoor's cairns may be the closest thing Devon has to the pyramids and while they're not as grand in terms of scale they at least come with great views. This is certainly true of the larger cairn on Cosdon hill, which according to one version of the Grey Wethers legend belongs to a prehistoric Belus-worshipper named Zorac. I hiked up there recently to pad out a trip to the Finch Foundry in Sticklepath.
In the legend Zorac's shears are stolen by a latter-day peasant to perform a ritual that will supposedly turn sheep fleece into gold (spoiler alert: it ended badly for tor-bound tomb raider).
It's always fun to check out the sites of Dartmoor legends and for me the slightly eerie atmosphere manifested itself in some black and white wide-angle photography. Even if you're not into moorland mumbo jumbo it's still worth the trip for the view and the stones over Zorac's bones make a great picnic spot.
Cosdon Hill Grid Reference: SX636915
Earlier this year when I went to Brussels one of my missions was to find two artefacts that had inspired a couple of memorable items in Tintin lore. One was a carved wooden figure that became the Arumbyan Fetish in The Broken Ear...
...the other was a Peruvian mummy that found fame as Rascar Capac in The Seven Crystal Balls.
Both are located in the same room of the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels, an impressive museum that houses a bit of everything from everywhere, and every period of history. There were several other objects in the Museum that inspired items in the Tintin adventures - it was clear that Hergé spent a lot of time there with his sketchpad.
According to the book Hergé and His Creation by Harry Thompson (with a 'p') at a 1979 exhibition of real artefacts from the Tintin books the idol was replaced with a fake for fear someone would try and steal it, recreating events in The Broken Ear. Sure enough someone stole the fake holding it to ransom for an appearance by Hergé at the scene of the crime. Though Hergé turned up at the time stated the thief was a no-show, and the whereabouts of the fake idol remain a mystery.
The Cinquantenaire Museum shouldn't remain a mystery to fans though and is well worth venturing outside the tourist hotspots of central Brussels for.
Mark is a freelancer who specialises in creative copywriting. He's experienced at putting his copywriting skills to work on a variety of subjects and can easily turn his hand to different styles. In addition to being a copywriter and a hard-working wordsmith Mark had also forged other forms of content for the web and print including photography, video and illustrations.
Based in Devon Mark lives within questing distance of the UK's Middle Earth aka Dartmoor. He likes his detectives hard-boiled, his eggs runny, and his time travel non-paradoxical.
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