From ‘Town council says student’s effort to cover HDB staircase in gold foil ‘not permissible’, 7 March 2017, article by Wong Pei Ting, Today
The Jalan Besar Town Council is reaching out to an arts student who covered the 20th floor staircase of a Jalan Rajah flat with gold foil to explore future collaboration, although it made clear what she did was “unauthorised” and “not permissible”.
…Ms Priyageetha Dia, who is studying fine arts at Lasalle College of the Arts, had earlier identified herself on Facebook as the person behind the “golden staircase” at Block 103 Jalan Rajah. “We appreciate Ms Priyageetha Dia’s desire to enhance her surrounding space,” said the spokesman. “Under the Town Council’s (Common Property and Open Spaces) By-laws, however, this constitutes an unauthorised act and is thus not permissible.”
Set in the public area near her unit, Ms Dia said the artwork exists to question “what constitutes public and private spaces” and if it is “possible to draw a line between art and vandalism”. …Aware that she was treading a thin line between art and vandalism, Ms Dia asserted that she “did not deface anything”.
“What I did was to enhance the space and my surroundings,” said Ms Dia, who lives on the 20th floor. “This work provokes. Provokes in all sense (as) we are used to living the standard way of life, and all of a sudden something as glaring as gold negotiates the space. My work does not seek to obliterate a public space; vandalism in all sense has no respect for another individual.”
…Members of the Jalan Besar Town Council were also present on Tuesday to ascertain if the gold foil made the stairs slippery.
…Ms Akiko Ler, 43, felt that such an act, if done on the artist’s own accord without seeking counsel from the town council, is considered vandalism. “Residents here pay fees to keep the public space clean, so it’s only fair that it’s kept like how it was meant to be,” said the housewife from Japan.
‘Enhancement’ is subjective. When ‘Sticker Girl‘ spray-painted My Grandfather Road, she was promptly arrested for public defacement. Pave a road with gold like it were the Yellow Brick Road of Oz and you’re likely to suffer the same fate. If an allocated section of HDB void deck is splashed with colour, it’s called a ‘mural’, but when it’s ‘unauthorised’ and presented on some random wall or tunnel outside, it’s called ‘street art’. On an MRT train, or on a HDB rooftop that says ‘Fuck the PAP’, it becomes ‘vandalism’.
Covering a staircase with gold foil to add an illusory aura of royalty to HDB peasantry is not the only decorative activity going on in HDB flats. Potted plants, for example, are breeding grounds for dengue and if lined up on parapets becomes potential killer litter, yet you hardly hear of town council officials going around cracking down on fauna enthusiasts trying to ‘enhance’ living space with their own little Edens.
The artist should count herself fortunate that the authorities are waving an olive branch of ‘future collaboration’ instead of taking her to court. Others with the same intent outside of HDB blocks were not so lucky. What I’m curious about, though, is how much money the artist spent and if it were actual gold, why hasn’t anyone tried scrapping it off for keeps already?