Banksy’s Dismaland: Cruel Designs


Cruel Designs was a bus-mounted ‘museum’ surveying the role of design for social control. It was specially commissioned as part of the theme park/art exhibition organised by artist Banksy. Barnbrook designed the exhibition space and display graphics collaborating with curator and activist Gavin Grindon. The museum included items that were specifically designed to control, hurt or even kill you.

The exterior of the bus was repainted black, rendering it an odd, alien object in the theme-park-inspired surrounding. The interior aimed at subverting a white gallery space into an uncomfortable, claustrophobic and unsettling experience. Museum display methods (perspex cases, spotlights, labels and contextual images) were utilised to change the viewer’s perception of the objects, which would not otherwise be seen in a museum context.

The graphics developed for the show referenced naive design of state-produced documents, powerpoint presentations and visuals. The design aimed at blurring the line between fact and fiction, prompting visitors to ask ‘is this even real?’. Sensationalist news headlines, questionable quotes by prominent politicians and the cruel aspect of the objects on display were certainly ‘real’. The top of the bus was lined with fake adverts addressing some of the objects on display as well as wider themes of injustice, consumerism and cruelty.