From ‘My grandfather road vandal arrested’, 4 June 2012, article in asiaone.com
Police have arrested a 25-year-old woman who is believed to have vandalised several roads in Singapore. Between May 17 to 21 this year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) saw that the words “MY GRANDFATHER ROAD” were painted along Robinson Road and Maxwell Road and reported the matter to the Police.
It also reported that circular stickers printed with captions were pasted on a pavement around Lau Pa Sat and on a road traffic sign along Robinson Road. The female suspect was arrested at her residence in the eastern part of Singapore on June 3. The officers also found several paint-stained stencils and several pieces of stickers printed with captions. These items were seized for investigation.
Investigation is ongoing. The police are also working with LTA on earlier reports of round stickers found affixed on other pedestrian crossings at various places.
The case is classified as Vandalism under Section 3 of the Vandalism Act, Chapter 341. A person who is convicted for the offence shall be punished with a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding to 3 years and shall be liable to caning subjected to the Criminal Procedure Code 2010.
Sins of the Grandfather
Spray painting a road may land you 3 YEARS in jail and a severe beating, but knocking over someone while drunk driving and splattering someone’s BLOOD all over the road gives you a miserable SIX months sentence, or a fine between $1000 and $5000. So, the police have spent the past month tracking down someone placing stickers on pedestrian crossing buttons, while elsewhere cyclists and joggers are being mowed down by maniac drivers. Instead of monitoring speedsters, they’re keeping their eyes peeled for sticker vandals, who do nothing more than kill pedestrians’ time, not kill THEM unlike some nuisance drivers we know.
The colloquialism ‘My grandfather’s road’ has been used since the eighties, often used to describe motorists taking their own sweet time on the roads, or road-hoggers. In this case, the phrase could also double up as a visual protest against people who think they ‘own the road’ so they could streak about in the early wee hours in their Ferraris. Just a couple of days back, the ST ran a piece on these mystery ‘Press until Shiok’ stickers, that these antics were ‘to the amusement’ of Singaporeans, with some speculating that it could be a smart ‘guerilla marketing’ campaign. One interviewee remarked that this shows ‘the vibrant culture of Singapore and a let-your-hair-down attitude’. More like ‘let-your-pants-down for a whipping’ attitude. It almost sounded light hearted and did not end in the typically admonishing ‘Anyone with information on the culprit are to report to the police immediately’. Next thing you know, the one putting a smile on people’s faces with catchy slogans and making Singapore ‘hip’ again is being hauled to court for vandalising public property. Well thanks a lot, Straits Jinx. Don’t ever attempt to act cool again.
The ‘grandfather road’ vandal brings to mind the ‘white elephant’ incident at Buangkok MRT, where cut outs were put up to mock the two-year delay in the opening of Buangkok MRT station. It remains unknown as to who was ultimately responsible for this ‘outdoor protest’, though it was reported that a ‘veteran grassroots leader’ was behind it and his identity remains protected till this day. The blatant symbolism seemed to prick the conscience of the authorities that they forgot about the elephant displays being vandalism at all. Instead the police had to investigate if there had been any breach of the ‘Public Entertainments and Meetings Act’. Which means if you’re sticking it to the authorities though a piece of art, you’re ‘protesting’ without a permit. If you’re just trying to be funny with some stencils and stickers, you’re a menace to society.
A couple of years back, the Speak Good English campaign embarked on their own spate of state endorsed ‘vandalism’, putting ugly sticky notes on lampposts and hawker centre tables to instruct people on on speaking properly. So if it’s for a ‘good cause’ and you have a permit, marring the urban landscape is OK, but not if you’re a street artist inspired by the ‘functional’ landscape graffiti of Banksy. With an actual sense of humour. You can’t even walk around with a piece of chalk these days without a cop telling you to stay away from roads and buildings, as if you were in possession of a stick of dynamite instead.
Postcript: Fast turning out to be a anti-establishment cult heroine, ‘Sticker Lady’ is actually Samantha Lo, artist and founder of online magazine RCGNTN. Her Pinterest is still available for viewing, where she appears to have a special interest in typography. Also see the rest of her ‘Press’ series (Tumblr disabled), including ‘Anyhow Press Police Catch’, ‘Press for Nirvana’ and ‘Everything Also Press’. OK I made the last one up.
Then there’s the question of whether My Grandfather Road is considered ‘art’ at all. According to a ST Forum writer and SOTA student Darshini Ramiah (Suspect art has no value, 9 June 2012, ST Forum):
While the works are humorous, parodying Singaporean culture and Singlish, they seem to have no value whatsoever. Furthermore, the removal of the ‘art’ from public property involved spending money, time and effort.
While the suspect’s intentions may have been light-hearted, she appears to have had no consideration for the impact that her work may have caused. Art should serve to enhance and better a community. But the suspect’s work seems to be nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek attempt to garner public attention.
The writer fails to mention what is considered ‘proper’ art and how this makes a community ‘better’, using vague words like ‘value’ and ‘enhance’ without explaining why art MATTERS. Value, like art, is subjective and in order to argue if what Sticker Lady did has any ‘value’ in the very mundane sense of dollars and cents, consider if anyone will purchase any of her sticker creations after her conviction (It would probably sell like Hello Kitty plush toys). In terms of more abstract ‘value’, her ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humour may have made someone’s day, or made people conscious of their furious but useless pedestrian button pressing, i.e altered someone’s behavior, at least temporarily. In contrast, an almost blank piece of canvas may be clamoured to death as a timeless masterpiece, but if it leaves a viewer nonchalant and deemed as mere wall filler, how does it ‘enhance’ the community, despite being extremely ‘valuable’? Does ‘Brother Cane’ and its pubic hair snipping have any ‘value’? When Josef Ng broke the law (for public indecency) staging the act, like how Samantha Lo committed an offence (defacing public property), does it mean that the original Brother Cane wasn’t art?
Sticker Lady was eventually charged with mischief in late March 2013, in which the maximum penalty is one year’s jail and a fine. It was revealed that one of Lo’s creations was labelled ‘So Kancheong For What’. Though it was placed near a pedestrian crossing, I wonder if she was really referring to the government asking us to have more babies.
Filed under: 1980s, 2000s, 2010, 2012, Art, Environment, Fun and games, Justice system/Lawsuits, Motorists, MRT, Pedestrians, Police officers, Public works, Singlish/Broken english | Tagged: Art, justice system, Motorists, Pedestrians, police, Police officers, Public works, singlish, vandalism | 39 Comments »