Creative Industries: Banksy, Dismaland, and Cultural Tourism

Creative industries come in all different forms. According to Davies and Sighthorsson in Introducing the Creative Industries: From Theory to Practice creative industries have three defining features, “first, they all require some input of human creativity; second, they are vehicles for symbolic messages, that is, they are carriers of meaning; and third they contain, at least potentially, some kind of intellectual property that belongs to an individual or group” (Davies & Sighthorsson 1).

Recently Banksy opened Dismaland, a pop-up event located in Weston, in the shape of an apocalyptic theme park, featuring art by him and 58 other artists. Since its opening Weston have experienced something of a “Banksy” effect. Not only have visitors from all over the world flocked to the theme park, they have also visited other attractions in Weston. According to Weston’s Grand Pier general manage Paul Charalambous, “there is no question that Banksy’s work has bought more tourists to Weston-super-Mare who would not ordinarily visit” (Bristol Post).

Source: The Guardian

Is Dismaland a creative industry? The concept of creative industry is so diverse, because of what people consider to be creative. As Davies and Sighthorsson points out, “In some countries the local creative industries are primarily about heritage, tourism and managing access to sites of natural beauty or animal habitats” (Davies & Sighthorsson 2). In cases like Dismaland creative industries go hand in hand with the economies of cities and regions.

Dismaland could even be defined as a symbolic product, a term Davies and Sighthorsson defines as “when people involved make something that has meaning” (Davies & Sighthorsson 4). Dismaland is built on the site of an abandoned outdoor swimming facility that Banksy went to as a child. The works in the exhibit follow themes frequently used in Banksy’s other works. According to the brochure brochure the event, “contains adult themes, distressing imagery, extended use of strobe lighting, smoke effects and swearing. The following items are strictly prohibited: knives, spraycans, illegal drugs, and lawyers from the Walt Disney corporation” (Creative Boom). The locations link to the artist’s childhood, and the obvious interest in the themes represented prove that the exhibit is a symbolic product.

Dismaland differs from other theme park symbolic products. Davies and Sighthorsson points out that symbolic products, “when they are mass-produced and distributed they are usually not stand-alone creations; instead, they form clusters or ‘chains’ of related products and services” (Davies & Sighthorsson4). Unlike theme parks used as examples by Davies such as Disneyland, Dismaland takes on a different role. In the brochure for the event the theme park is described as, “an alternative to the soulless sugar-coated banality of the average family day out…a chaotic new world where you can escape from mindless escapism” the brochure also points out that, “instead of a burger stall, we have a museum. In place of a gift shops we have a library, well; we have a gift shop as well” (Creative Boom). Davies also talks about how internationally recognized galleries are involved in the game of total merchandising. Davies and Sighthorsson then refers to Exit Through the Gift Shop a film about how, “Banksy mocks the way in which art galleries routinely fashion themselves as branded destinations with their buildings, cafes, and restaurants- not to mention the gift shops full of bags, t-shirts and mugs featuring their logos” (Davies & Sighthorsson 6). It is interesting that Dismaland features a gift shop, when it seems as if Banksy is so against mass merchandising.

Banksy’s Dismaland is a creative industry because it brings has brought visitors to Weston after their visit to the theme park, and because it has characteristics of a symbolic product. However, Dismaland is a twist on the regular creative industry theme park, and is being billed as a “sinister twist on Disneyland”.

Creative industries come in many different forms. Banksy’s play on the regular mass commercialized theme park is a take the definition of creative industry. As Banksy elaborates in the brochure for the theme park “I guess you’d say it’s a theme park whose big theme is- theme parks should have bigger themes” (Creative Boom).

Sources:

Bristol Post 

Creative Boom 

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