Renaissance City My Arse!
Skl0 is a Singaporean guerilla artist who has been responsible for street art that has been spotted around Singapore recently. On the sides of roads, she would paint “My Grandfather Road” and she would place stickers on traffic light posts which satirize the behavior of Singaporeans.
Technically, of course, what Skl0 has done is against the law and a case could be made against her to convict her of vandalism, the consequences of which are possible jail time and caning. To do so, would be draconian and would suggest that the Singapore authorities are more concerned about law and order than creativity and artistry. This would be totally at odds with the perceived notion of Singapore as a “Renaissance City” where arts and culture are allowed to flourish.
So is Skl0 an artist or a vandal? How can we tell the difference? Would classifying Skl0 as an artist and making an exception in her case encourage more vandalism and defeat the purpose of the law? These are difficult questions but if we do not as a society (that aspires to inhabit a “Renaissance City”) debate and come to a consensus on what constitutes art then we might as well give up now and return to the good old days when Singapore was rightfully described as a ‘cultural desert’.
As an arts teacher, I talk to my students about art being a representation of ideas, genuinely taking risks and thinking ‘outside of the box’ – concepts that I hope will aid in their creative development. The authorities have also been championing these ideals in the context of developing Singapore as a “Renaissance City”. What kind of message would it send to our young people if the authorities convict a young artist displaying these qualities in a manner that has resonated and connected with many Singaporeans on multiple levels successfully?
Instead of living in paranoia and fear as to what floodgates may open by allowing such activity, the authorities need to engage the arts community to consider how we can work together to foster the proper attitudes and environment that will give us all what we truly want – the “Renaissance City”.
The first step would be to recognize that whilst Skl10 has technically broken the law and thus should be responsible for her illegal acts, she should not – by virtue of her artistic efforts – be punished with the full severity of the law but given a lighter sentence. Therefore, I have signed an online petition to review the sentence of Skl0 in the hopes that the relevant authorities will recognize that this is not your run-of-the-mill case of vandalism and that an opportunity has presented itself to properly engage the arts community and to ‘walk the talk’.
If you agree with the thoughts articulated above, I would encourage you to sign the petition in support as well. http://www.change.org/petitions/mica-review-sentence-of-skl0-arts-censorship-in-sg