Laurie Lax


Dreamland Margate is a part-vintage amusement park with gaudy lights and potentially hazardous rollercoasters. Dreamland, as is more commonly known, is close to where I grew up on the most southeastern coast of England. It closed in 2003 but was recently re-opened in 2015 thanks to the existence of a Grade II* listed wooden rollercoaster, which helped to secure £18million of public funding.

Theme parks and fairgrounds (specifically the rides) are places people go to ritually terrorize themselves. They range from rough-around-the-edge nomadic pop-ups, often with exquisite hand-painted signage, to impressively airbrushed fronted rides like the SlingShot.

I was subjected to compilation YouTube videos such as Slingshot Funny Pass Out Compilation (FAILTUBE: Aug 27, 2016) featuring pairs, usually lovers, friends, or parent and child, voluntarily and temporarily experience conditions that would normally mean impending death. Just imagine being catapulted into the clouds 160kmph, flipped upside down numerous times before an absolutely vertical decent. It’s a far cry from the helter skelter ride, where itchy burlap mats have transported bums down a spiraling slide of polished wood since 1905.

As a consequence to the could/would/should-be-dead experience described before, video technology allows one to purchase documentation of one’s own simulation death. The mini-deaths are multiple and either comes in short bursts or more durational blackouts. The disconcerting thing watching these clips from the viewer’s perspective, is the way heads, limbs and all extremities flail around, depending on which way their bodies face the pull of gravity, and resist the friction of acceleration.

If you look at the world upside down, does it help you see any clearer? Like drawing an upside down object and turning the drawing the right way up again, to see if you’ve really been looking.

If you could pivot around a precise point of view, both physically and metaphorically, does it help you forget the things you learned to keep your feet on the ground? Some are more predisposed to irrational fearlessness than others, it seems, for some simply hold tight to the safety straps and scream with an untameable smile – full of teeth and tongue and tonsils. Most affected are the ones who pre-empt death before the powerful mechanism kicks off.

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