Art is ambiguous. People have different interpretations as to what Art is really all about. Art can be soothing, through a painting which depicts a scene in a park with subjects lounging about the grass and soaking in the sun. Art can be contemporary, with a Damien Hirst installation of a lifeless shark in a tank that talks about how the physicality of death is impossible to be in a person’s living mind. Art denotes the expression or creative skills in a human’s reach. Imagination is limitless; therefore people express their ingenuity through various visual platforms such as paintings, installations, sculptures, or even theatre!
Recently, a young street artist (Samantha Lo) was arrested for pasting circular black and white stickers on the buttons of traffic lights. Each sticker had witty and humorous captions with some like “Press to time travel”, “Anyhow press police catch” and “Press to Nirvana” around areas like Lau Pa Sat and Robinson Road. She was also behind the signs “MY GRANDFATHER ROAD” which were painted on several roads as well. Her actions were well-received from young Singaporeans, with some commenting them as hilarious and creative. However, others beg to differ and view it as a public nuisance. She is currently on bail with an impending fine of up to $10,000, or 3 years of jail term. Since then, netizens gathered to sign a petition MICA: Review sentence of SKL0; Arts Censorship in SG to ease the sentence for Sam, with an outcry on how something so decent can be controversial.
Is the leeway for expressing creativity and imagination openly in Singapore constricted, or do people remain conservative about explicit forms of showcasing inventiveness?
What Sam did was harmless and purely fun. It could be an act of vandalism, but she did not articulate vulgar terms or insult the government, so why is she facing heavy charges for expressing her interpretation of art and creativity? Some are incredulous towards the discerning line between Art and Non-Art, explaining that her act was abusing public spaces that contribute to a handful for cleaners to remove the stickers and paint. Others supported that what Sam did was street art which does not involve graphic graffiti and was clean in aesthetics. In New York City, street art defines differently, with a kaleidoscope of colours sprayed into artistic fonts or designs. Sometimes, they bear profanities. Comparing both Artworks, the latter would receive a larger reaction from the crowd, similarly to what a Swiss national did to an MRT train in 2010, where he vandalized by spraying graffiti and damaged public property by cutting a wired fence to enter private premises. Sam’s perception of Art was humorous and entertaining; hence the stickers and road signs. I do not condone the act of vandalism, but this is merely abusing public spots.
Art is Art. It creates arguments, it questions, it communicates, it beautifies, all in various forms. To Sam, her idea of creativity and Art was channeling the Singaporean culture into our daily lives. Yes, she raised eyebrows for her act but I applaud her for being courageous and daring to follow what interests her best, and that is Art.
Without Art, people would be imprisoned by their thoughts and emotions. Creativity would cease to exist and imagination fades into oblivion. I embrace the Arts because it is an avenue to showcase feelings, interpret thoughts, and tell a story about a culture or past. Sometimes, it moves us to create and revolutionize what Art is all about, and Sam portrayed that deeply.
The freedom to express, create and communicate. That is what Art means to me.
Flesh Imp Team