Street artist Banksy has opened an anti-theme park named Dismaland in the UK. CNN reported:
The seaside town of Weston-super-Mare in south-west England is gray and gloomy when we arrive.
“Welcome to Dismaland,” a dead-eyed girl in Mickey Mouse ears greets us at the gates of the old public pool.
We’re hassled by testy security guards at metal detectors before we catch sight of the main attraction: a decrepit fairytale castle in a moat of murky water and a crashed police van.
Surrounding it: an upside down slide fashioned from a battered old truck, an old-school carousel, a Ferris wheel. Inside, Cinderella’s coach has crashed, surrounded by clicking paparazzi.
Here it is: the latest exhibition from Banksy, the art world’s favorite agent provocateur. Billed as a “bemusement park” and modeled after Disneyland, it’s a warped vision of the so-called “happiest place on Earth”.
This is, of course, the Banksy who has built a reputation for leaving often political, frequently comical graffiti everywhere from London to Gaza; the street artist known for exploring war, political corruption, hope and revolution with stencils and spray paint; the anonymous figure whose identity remains unconfirmed.
There are rides, yes, and three galleries featuring pieces from the likes of Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, and Banksy himself, along with lesser-known artists. Many of the over 50 artists from 17 countries exhibiting share a common irreverence toward the political and cultural establishment.
As was expected, the artist isn’t here to speak to his mission directly, or why he’s sending up Disney, but the artists on hand were more than happy to theorize.
“[Disney] is vulnerable, to me,” says Jeff Gillette, the Orange County-based artist who juxtaposes Disney characters with images of slums and dumps. “They’re such a big presence and such a big part of culture and symbolic of so many things. It’s hard not to f**k with them.”
(To add insult to corporate injury, signs at Dismaland say lawyers are banned, along with spray paint, marker pens and knives.)
But it’s clearly not just Disney in the spotlight here. One of Banksy’s new works on display, ostensibly a game, has visitors navigating boats of migrants surrounded by floating bodies.
Behind the Ferris wheel and the high interest loan shop for kids seeking allowance advances, there’s the activist corner. After taking in the art, visitors can explore a geodome covered in protest posters and the anarchist bookstore, or receive advice about collective bargaining and unions. A girl with cropped hair and a defiant smirk offers tips and kits for hacking bus stop billboard displays.
Passersby on the way to the aquarium or the beach or home stop to ponder the ominous Dismaland sign and ask about admission without even knowing what’s happening. It’s a fun fair, some suggest, or an opening.
“It seems like an evil version of Disney,” a little girl in a GAP jumper muses near the barriers.
So what’s this got to do with Jews? Ostensibly very little; when it comes to sharing “a common irreverence toward the political and cultural establishment”, Jews must surely rank high on the list for anarchists, revolutionaries and anti-establishment figures – the most famous of all being Jesus! Sadly though, the radical left have declared Israel – the collective Jew – the enemy.
So it was that a Palestinian artist – initially kicked out for protesting the presence of Israeli artists – was allowed to make his ”statement”. Al-Araby al-Jadeed reported :
Shadi Alzaqzouq was escorted off the grounds of “Dismaland,” and told his paintings would be removed, after he placed a bed sheet over his work — with “R.I.P Gaza: Boycott Israel” written on it in coal – and laid it down “like a corpse” in front of his display.
He did this, he said, because he had not been informed by the event’s organizers that Israeli artists would be present.
Dismaland… is the brainchild of British graffiti artist Banksy…whose left-wing political activism, including open advocacy for Palestinians, is well-known.
In August 2005, Banksy painted nine pieces of graffiti on the security barrier erected between Israel and the Palestinian territories to keep Palestinian suicide bombers and other terrorists from easy access to Israeli civilians. Among these was a picture of Palestinian children trying to dig through the wall.
Alzaqzouq, thus, was surprised at the lack of sympathy his outrage at participating in a show along with Israeli counterparts elicited – particularly from Banksy, whom he described as “my hero for a long time.”
He said that when he inquired about why his actions elicited such a harsh response, he was informed by Holly Cushing, believed to be Banksy’s manager, that his form of protest was too “ugly.”
According to Alzaqzouq — born to Palestinian parents in Benghazi, who lived in Libya, Gaza and Egypt before settling in France in 2007 — Cushing also said that an American art collector was interested in purchasing his pieces, “And that America and Israel were one and the same.”
The story does not end here, however. After the incident, Dismaland organizers did not take down Alzaqzouq’s pieces. Instead, they posted a sign on the display that reads: “The artist has decided to cover his work to protest being exhibited alongside artists from Israel. We are hoping to resolve the situation as soon as possible and apologise for any disappointment.”
I share Alzaqzouq’s surprise at the lack of sympathy for his boycott of Israeli artists, considering Banksy is a long-time advocate of the fake Palestinian narrative.
Earlier this year, one of Banksy’s artworks appeared in Gaza. NBC News reported:
Palestinians walk past a mural of a playful-looking kitten, presumably painted by British street artist Banksy, on the remains of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during a 50-day war last summer, in Biet Hanoun town in the northern Gaza Strip.
The mural features a kitten seeming to play with a ball of tangled metal rods as if it were yarn. The playful kitty is a jarring contrast to the destruction that surrounds him, but that’s Banksy’s point. On his website, Bansky says, “A local man came up and said ‘Please – what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website – but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”
The eminent British street artist known as Banksy has posted a mini-documentary on his banksy.co.uk site showing squalid conditions in Gaza six months after the end of the war between the enclave’s Islamist Hamas rulers and Israel. Israel was criticized over the large number of Palestinian civilian deaths during the conflict, including by its main ally the United States. Over 2,100 Palestinians were killed during the fighting, most of them civilians and many of them children, while 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians were killed.
The two-minute documentary… like many of Banksy’s murals and other art is politically charged and whimsical at the same time. It starts off with a view of clouds from an airplane window while text on the screen says “Make this the year you discover a new destination.”
Banksy’s Dismaland now has an Australian element, with an ‘artist’ known as Lush invited to exhibit:
Melbourne graffiti artist Lush thought he was being trolled when he received an email invitation from artist and activist Banksy to take part in an international art event. As it turns out, he is the only Australian represented at Dismaland…
At the start, he wasn’t told what the project was.
“I asked if it was going to be a street-art circus sort of thing. That’s all I really cared about, I didn’t want to be involved some kind of joke. But it turned out I was pretty much the only graffiti guy in it.”
Lush submitted various ideas before he made his final contributions, three framed works and two outdoor installations, set-ups that allow “people who visit to become part of the show themselves, because everyone’s so self-obsessed at the moment”. One is a blank wall with a “selfie hole” for people to stick their heads through, the other is a contemporary twist on the Pirates Of the Caribbean theme park image.
If misogynist art turns you on, Lush will appeal:
A self-described ‘graffiti asshole’, Lush is the ultimate graffiti antihero. Lush is genuinely raw, with graphic images of porn, sex and occasionally violence.
In a strongly male and often aggressive culture, Lush wrote the how-to manual. He probably wrote it on your fence, with your half-naked girlfriend taking the photos. Due to Lush’s potty mouth there have been some amendments to the following interview; amended words are followed by (*)…
My art is nothing new really; loads of people did similar stuff before me. I just stole their ideas and ran with them. Hence the title “Graffiti Asshole.”
I don’t own a ute and shoot pigs so I’m not a total real “Aussie”. I just kept having coitus (*) with girls at graf spots while I was painting; I like women with big (*)(*). It just evolved into what I do now. Other writers get jealous but you can’t take a number two (*) and not make some graffiti nerd mad.
Painting canvases are very, very boring but you can get lots of free merchandise and coitus (*) from doing gallery shows. I just like to do stupid things (*) now, like have death-matches or get six girls naked in a peep show at my shows.
At some point I want to do the first tag in outer space, maybe I should panel the space shuttle. Life philosophy: if it’s got a career plan (*), marry it (*).
Not everyone views him as an artist. The Herald Sun reports:
A GRAFFITI vandal who films himself defacing city buildings and other public property will display his work in an exhibition at an inner-city venue on Saturday.
The masked vandal, who goes by the name Lush, has been terrorising the western suburbs for years, but police have been unable to stop him.
The “Zonkvision” exhibition, titled BRAIN ZTAINS, will be displayed at the Cat Food Press in East Brunswick.
In one of many videos freely available online, the bong-smoking vandal Lush presents a “How to” guide to vandalising Melbourne.
In others he is seen wielding a box cutter, smashing a car, firing a nail gun at a dummy dressed as a Connex ticket inspector, taunting police and spray painting his name across Melbourne.
One worried Altona North resident, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said hard-working citizens had had enough of the brazen vandal…the man said Lush had cut a trail of destruction through Werribee, Hoppers Crossing, Laverton and Altona North.
“This loser is all that’s wrong with this country. Work hard, get attacked. Be a criminal loser and you are an internet superstar,” he wrote.
I don’t know where Lush got his name, but if he took it from anti-Israel cosmetics company Lush. he’d fit right in with Banksy:
StandWithUs is deeply disturbed that the UK-based parent company of LUSH Cosmetics is promoting an extremist, anti-Israel group, War on Want (WoW), as one of its “ethical campaigns.”
LUSH expresses pride about being “dynamic, original and progressive.” If the company looked more carefully at Israel, it would learn that Israel stands out as one of the most progressive, environmentally conscious nations in the world.
Unfortunately, LUSH’s parent company has chosen to promote the “OneWorld–Freedom for Palestine” song project.
The lyrics are anti-Israel propaganda.
WoW is a UK charity that has been investigated by the UK Charities Commission because of its anti-Israel positions and anti-Semitic imagery. It has been a leader in the propaganda campaign to demonize Israel through the BDS movement, and it supports the propaganda and agenda of groups like Hamas.
WoW demands that Israel take down its security fence, end the Gaza naval blockade, and accept the Palestinians’ “right of return,” which in essence denies Israel‘s right to exist and calls for its destruction through demographic changes.
The “OneWorld–Freedom for Palestine” project is supported by veteran anti-Israel groups, including the A.M. Qattan Foundation, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Friends of Al Aqsa, Israeli Committee against House Demolitions UK, Stop the War Coalition, and Trust Greenbelt.
Majd Al Waheidi and Isabel Kershner, reporting for the New York Times, follow the usual Israel-as-aggressor narrative,
Very little of Abu Shadi Shenbari’s family home remains in Beit Hanoun…only a concrete bathroom wall was left standing when Israeli forces flattened the neighborhood near the border with Israel during the war with Hamas last summer.
Though Mr. Shenbari had all but abandoned that last panel of erect concrete, in recent days he began building a wood and wire-mesh fort with a flimsy nylon roof to protect the bombed-out bathroom wall, which is now home to a 10-foot-tall depiction of a kitten, created by the elusive British graffiti artist Banksy, who slipped in and out of Gaza in February, leaving his mark on three slabs of rubble left from Israel’s 50-day fight with Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza.
Gaza residents, largely preoccupied with the slow pace of reconstruction after a cold and wet winter in this impoverished and isolated Palestinian coastal strip, have been waking up to the value of the Banksy artworks that appeared amid the ruins.
“If I had enough money, I would buy a glass showcase and put it in there,” Shenbari said. “I would turn it into a museum so that the Americans and people from other countries could come and visit it. For me, it is Palestinian heritage.”
That heritage is open to dispute. Last month, another Banksy work in Gaza — an image of a weeping Greek goddess that he had spray-painted on the iron door of another destroyed home — became the subject of a legal contest between the homeowner and an opportunistic Gaza artist. Rabie Darduna, whose home was destroyed save for the iron door, said he did not know that pieces by Banksy had sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars abroad when he agreed to sell his door as scrap to a local Gaza artist, Belal Khaled.
Mr. Khaled paid a mere 700 shekels (about $180) and said he wanted to protect the goddess mural.
Hamas sent police officers to confiscate the door. Its ownership and value are to be settled in court.
Shenbari, guardian of the kitten mural, said he had not been aware of the value of Banksy’s works before the furor over the goddess door.
He said the basic chicken-coop-like structure he had built around his wall was meant to keep the mural visible while protecting it from people’s touch, and from Hamas, though it is unlikely that some wire and wood would prevent the Gaza authorities from expropriating the wall should they decide to do so.
“It is private property,” said Mr. Shenbariy. “Can anyone come and take the wall of your bathroom?”
Shenbari said he watched as Banksy created the image of the kitten in about 40 minutes. The kitten appears to be toying with a ball made of coils of metal that Shenbari said Banksy had collected from the rubble.
“Banksy asked us to protect his privacy, and we promised our loyalty,” Shenbari said, adding that his children brought the artist tea and water while he worked. “He told us to let the people of Palestine know that his art is dedicated to them.”
Besides the kitten and the weeping goddess, Banksy painted another mural in Gaza that shows children swinging from an Israeli military watchtower as if it were a carousel.
“It is a message to Israel and the whole world that Israeli wars in Gaza left nobody safe, including kittens,” Mr. Shenbari said.
More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s 50-day war against Hamas, the majority civilians, according to the UN. More than 70 people, most of them soldiers, were killed on the Israeli side.
I wonder what Walt Disney would have made of this parody of his work and its antisemitic element. Mind you, according to Meryl Streep, Walt was himself an anti-Semite, a claim the Jerusalem Post disputes:
“Disney, who brought joy to billions of people, was perhaps, or had some … racist proclivities. He formed and supported an anti-Semitic industry lobby” Streep said.
According to The New York Times, in 1938, a month after the Nazi assault on German Jews known as Kristallnacht, Walt Disney gave Hitler’s personal filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, a tour of his studio. Riefenstahl offered to show Disney her depiction of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Eventually, the Times reported, Disney turned down the German artist when he realized working with her might ruin his reputation.
In his biography of Riefenstahl, author Steven Bach writes that upon her return to Germany, she thanked Disney for receiving her, saying it “was gratifying to learn how thoroughly proper Americans distance themselves from the smear campaigns of the Jews.”
However, Disney’s grandniece Abigail Disney supports Streep’s assertion:
Disney took to Facebook to say she “loved” her remarks, and admitted that she herself had “mixed feelings” about her great uncle.
“Anti-Semite? Check. Misogynist? OF COURSE!! Racist? C’mon he made a film (Jungle Book) about how you should stay ‘with your own kind’ at the height of the fight over segregation! As if the ‘King of the Jungle’ number wasn’t proof enough!! How much more information do you need?”
But, the 54-year-old film producer reminded her followers, “he was hella good at making films and his work has made billions of people happy. There’s no denying it.”
Abigail Disney… agreed with Meryl Streep’s comments. Her statement comes after Streep shocked onlookers at a dinner to honour her peer Emma Thompson for her star turn as PL Travers in Disney film Saving Mr Banks.
On the one hand, Streep labelled Thompson “a beautiful artist” who is “practically a saint”….On the other, Streep launched into a tirade about Disney, calling the late animator a “hideous anti-Semite” who “formed and supported an anti-Semitic industry lobby”.
Disney was plagued by allegations of anti-Semitism during his life and after his death. Sure enough, ethnic stereotypes common to films of the 1930s were included in several of his early cartoons.
For example, Three Little Pigs featured the Big Bad Wolf sneaking up to the door dressed as a Jewish peddler. And The Opry House, during which Mickey Mouse dresses up and dances like a Hasidic Jew.
Other rumours centred around his acceptance of female German filmmaker (and notorious Nazi propagandist) Leni Riefenstahl to Hollywood to promote her film Olympia in 1938. He was criticised for not cancelling her invitation even after news of Kristallnacht broke.
Further still, Jewish animator Art Babbitt …claimed to have seen Disney and his lawyer, Gunther Lessing, attending meetings of pro-Nazi organisation the German American Bund in the late 1930s.
However, Disney biographer Neal Gabler, who was the first writer to gain unrestricted access to the Disney archives in 2006, concluded based on the evidence available that he was not an anti-Semite. At least, not in the conventional sense.
He said: “He got the reputation because, in the 1940s, he got himself allied with a group called the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, which was an anti-Communist and antisemitic organization.
“And though Walt himself was not antisemitic, nevertheless, he willingly allied himself with people who were antisemitic, and that reputation stuck. He was never really able to expunge it throughout his life.”
According to The Walt Disney Family Museum, the company also gave money to several Jewish charities, including the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, Yeshiva College and The American League for a Free Palestine.
So the jury is out on Walt Disney; Banksy’s artistic creations, on the other hand, leave no doubt as to his anti-Israel/anti-Semitic proclivities.