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Mystery and satire in Banksy’s Dismaland

Concordia grad and part-time instructor Maskull Lasserre contributes to the British artist’s project replicating an abandoned fairground
September 14, 2015
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By Guenevere Neufeld

Maskull Lasserre, MFA (studio arts) 09, is one of 60 international artists with work displayed in Dismaland, a radical and thought-provoking creation of Britain’s anonymous artist Banksy. 

Maskull Lasserre Maskull Lasserre combines a variety of his interests through the diversity of his work. | Photo: Nic Dua

For five weeks, from August 22 to September 27, the public is able to enter the “bemusement park,” a satirical twist on theme parks located in Weston-super-Mare, a seaside town in Southern England. 

“It’s a fairground where nothing is as it seems,” says Lasserre. “The heavy layer of irony and subversion that is plastered over what at first appears to be recognizable, everyday objects makes you doubt and question everything.”

An email from Banksy to participate came to Lasserre “out of the blue,” he says. “We then communicated back and forth quite a bit about the themes and different pieces of my work that he was interested in and how they could be integrated.”

Lasserre’s interest in the mysterious made his work a logical choice for the obscure project. Of the five pieces Lasserre has in the exhibition, one was created specifically for Dismaland — an old wooden carousel horse with anatomical details carved out of one side and mounted on a brass pole housed in the more traditional gallery space of the park. 

Lasserre included his hybrid chair in Banksy's exhibit. Lasserre included his hybrid chair, a cross between a bear trap and an institutional folding chair in Banksy's exhibit. | Photo: Maskull Lasserre

His hybrid cross of an industrial black chair formed into a giant bear trap is posed under a circus big-top near Damien Hirst’s unicorn submersed in formaldehyde.

Other aspects of the park that Banksy himself calls “a festival of art, amusements and entry-level anarchism” include a police riot van crashed in an algae-filled pond and a mock creation of Cinderella’s stage coach overturned and overtaken by paparazzi. 

Themes in the park appealed to Lasserre’s choices for his own art. “The works I make are the things I’m most curious about or interested in at any given moment,” he says.

“I’m always looking for a moment of necessity where a subject, material and a process come together. Rather than being bound by literal themes, complexity and vagueness is what really engages me.”

Lasserre has had his art displayed in dozens of exhibitions all over the world. He’s held positions as an artist in residence in numerous institutions, including the J.M. Kohler Art Center in Wisconsin, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Boston, and been a participant in the Canadian Forces War Artists Program in Afghanistan. He also was a visiting professor in San Francisco’s California College of Art and is an instructor in Concordia’s Department of Studio Arts.

Carousel horse displayed in Dismaland Lasserre carved anatomical details into a carousel horse displayed in Dismaland. | Photo: Maskull Lasserre

“It’s a luxury,” he says of his part-time position teaching a foundry class. “I get to go in and spend time with the students and help other people with their problems as opposed to always dealing with mine.”

Dismaland tickets are selling — and selling out — in stages for the duration of the five-week spectacle. Lasserre says that for Dismaland, as with all art, each individual will have his or her own take on the immersive experience.

“Banksy put his best constellation of artists together and put it out into the world,” he says. “Now it belongs to the public and people are going to come up with their own interpretations of what it was intended to be.” 

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