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14 October 2015: Art history lecturer curates part of Banksy's Dismaland

The Dismaland “bemusement park” project by artist Banksy features a Museum of Cruel Designs curated by Dr Gavin Grindon from the School of Philosophy and Art History.

Billed as “the UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction”, the race for tickets for the show has been so overwhelming, its website crashed within minutes of opening for sales. The show, in Weston-Super-Mare, is Banksy’s biggest project yet, built on the 2.5 acre site of a crumbling former lido.

But such is the mystery surrounding the famous artist, Dr Grindon has been sworn to secrecy, not only about what Banksy is like, but even to confirm whether he has actually met him or not. He is also not allowed to go into detail about exactly how he got involved in Dismaland. What he can say is he got involved following his recent Disobedient Objects exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which examined the powerful role of objects in movements for social change.

As a sequel to Disobedient Objects, Dr Grindon has created the Museum of Cruel Designs within Dismaland’s Guerilla Island. Housed in a single decker bus, his exhibition focuses on the use of design for social control and includes anti-homeless spikes, police tasers and a piece of a border fence featuring booby traps and automated CS gas sprays.

Speaking about the museum, Dr Grindon said: “The material is very intense. A couple of visitors have come out crying. Exhibiting these objects and the traumatic stories of injustice behind them is intended to expose them for scrutiny, and it has certainly provoked some fierce debate among visitors.”

Guerilla Island also includes a gallery of protest banners and political illustration from the Middle East and Europe, a ‘No Borders’ bookshop, a Comrades Advice Bureau featuring local activist organisations and workshops in how to hack outdoor advertising spaces.

With only three months from conception to execution, Dr Grindon said he had found the experience hectic but very interesting.

“The real challenge was getting the whole thing together in such a short time,” he said. “Finding the objects was particularly hard as the makers of these objects often do not want the public to look at them or even know about them. Some of the objects were actually acquired using legal requests under the freedom of information act.”

Dr Grindon, whose research focuses on the history of activist-art, added: “The whole show is great. Putting art and design on display in a theme park has attracted a really broad popular audience. It shows that art can be for everyone, while still being smart and critical.”

Dr Grindon is the Co-Director of the School of Philosophy and Art History's unique Centre for Curatorial Studies, which offers MA courses in curating and museology and is launching a new BA Curatorial Studies degree starting in October 2016.

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