The Sticker Lady wouldn't be in trouble if she got approval

The 'Sticker Lady' has now been released on police bail. Sources say that she spent about 20 hours in police lock-up. Her laptop and cellphone have been seized by the police. She is likely to be charged with a crime which carries a fine of up to $2000, or a jail-term of up to three years and caning.

What's her crime? This:

She used a stencil to paint "My Grandfather Road' on some public roads, and she pasted quirky stickers on traffic lights all over Singapore.

The 'Sticker Lady' is believed to be Ms Samantha Lo, founder of online magazine RCGNTN.  Her arrest sparked a massive movement online, largely in support of the street artist.

Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh making reference to Bansky said on her Facebook that 'street art all over the world sits on the uneasy line between artistic self-expression and vandalism, and many street artists take risks to spread the social messages on public walls and property'. 

In supporting the online petition which is going around to lobby for the 'Sticker Lady's' charge to be amended from vandalism to a charge of public nuisance which carries a lighter penalty, Ms Koh called for a "debate on whether such public expressions in general should be respected as art works in themselves, or judged to be acts of vandalism".

She's not alone is asking for the city-state to make a distinction between acts of vandalism and street art.  A facebooker for example, lamented on hearing of the arrest of the street artist, "there's no street art in Singapore, only vandalism'.

The police however do not seem to be relenting. A police spokesman in speaking to the mainstream media explaining how the police had to divert substantial resources to identify the culprit behind the case said, "vandalising public property is a very irresponsible act".

Member of Parliament from the ruling People's Action Party, Ms Indranee Rajah has also spoken up in support of the police action. "Whether it is art on the pavements or on manhole covers, art per se is not an issue if you get approval."

The 'Sticker Lady's' acts have also been compared with the works of Swiss national Oliver Fricker and Briton, Dane Alexander Lloyd, who trespassed into a restricted train depot and spray painted 'McKoy Banos' (which is said to be the signature of the two graffiti artists), on the trains that were there.

When Mr Fricker appealed his sentence of two months' jail for trespass and three months' jail and three strokes of the cane for vandalism; that the sentence for the trespass should run concurrently with the sentence for the vandalism charge, the appeal judge increased that sentence to four months, commenting, "If and when foreigners contravene any laws, they cannot expect or claim special privileges or exemptions on the basis of their nationality or status as a foreigner." 

The appeal judge also reportedly said that while "some might regard graffiti as a stimulating and liberating activity that adds colour, spice and variety to a staid environment", such actions were "offensive to the sensibilities of the general public".

Should the police be expected to act any differently against the 'Sticker lady' now because she is not a foreigner?

What perhaps needs a rethink is the vandalism act itself. Should works of street art which does not cost time, effort and money to clean up; or works of art that does not involve trespass be excluded from the Vandalism Act?

Ms Rajah's comment pretty much sums up the mindset of how Singapore works - 'get approval'.

Is this culture of 'getting approvals', the reason for Singapore to be listed among the most boring cities to visit

Perhaps with a rethink of Singapore's Vandalism Act, and a set of clearer guidelines as to what will not be considered acts of vandalism, a proper distinction can be made about what would be street art that is acceptable, and what is outright vandalism.

It is very difficult after all, to 'get approval' when your artistic juices are flowing.


Daniel said…
The issue about the definition and administration of art aside, what really pisses me off about this incident is the uneven application of the law against the Sticker Lady.

Hundreds, if not thousands of serial vandals get away with advertising their products and services on public and private property in ways that breach the Vandalism Act. Nobody even bothers to arrest them.

If you want to rule of law to have any force, it must be applied equitably.
Anonymous said…
Don't the police have more pressing and important matters to attend to? Like street patrols for example.

Don't waste taxpayers' money.