James Joyce and Banksy's Festival of Malcontent
We put smiley faces everywhere. From shopping bags to dishonest texts and passive aggressive work emails, we love to smile at everyone we see in every possible context, even if it’s not a completely honest portrayal of our emotions. When international street art legend Banksy was putting together his latest curated experience, Dismaland, he needed a representation of this part of our culture and found an easy ally in artist James Joyce whose video installation, “Perseverance in the Face of Absurdity,” riffs on how we use the image in our culture. The eyes and mouth of the smiley face have collapsed from their composition, left to be held as composite pieces in the cistern of the yellow face, in constant motion as if they’re trying to find the right way to smile.
Banksy’s curated experience is “Dismaland,” arranged to mimic and subvert the experience of visiting traditional theme parks. Tight security, endless lines, throngs and throngs of people are the tent poles of a day at Dismaland, punctuated by artwork surrendered by artists like Banksy, Damien Hirst, and David Shrigley. When Bansky first approached James it was in response to his painting, “Here for a Good Time not a Long Time,” the static, painted version of the piece that made its way into the Dismaland gallery. From that starting point, Banksy asked James to create a bespoke version for the exhibition. They discussed the idea of doing a physical revolving piece where all the parts of the face tumble around but when Joyce had a test animation made they agreed that it would be great to develop that as projected piece. James ended up getting a large bespoke circular screen built to maximise the impact of the piece, showing it in the low-light gallery, the first to envelope the audience.
The breadth and scope of this show will go down in the annals of pop art history for decades, and that’s something that James is acutely aware of. The experience is unique not just for the timely themes, but also the collection of artists that have come together to explore this part of our culture. “It’s obviously an amazing thing to be involved in,” says James. “The whole event is really well put together. It’s great to be in that show and exhibiting with such a diverse mix of artists.”
Dismaland is on view until September 27. Tickets are available at the park for £3 and online for £5. Check the website for availability.