Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Suspected vandal in sticky mess

Police nab woman, 25, allegedly behind quirky traffic light stickers and graffiti
By Jennani Durai, The Straits Times, 5 Jun 2012

The young woman is believed to be behind graffiti
 such as the painting of 'My Grandfather Building'
 on the wall of Realty Centre (above).
ONE of the quirky circular stickers that have been spotted on buttons of traffic lights at pedestrian crossings reads 'Anyhow Paste Kena Fine'.

It could, however, turn out to be true for the woman believed to be behind them because the authorities were not amused.

The police on Sunday managed to track down the 25-year-old and nabbed her at her home.

She was arrested for allegedly painting the words 'My Grandfather Road' at several spots in the vicinity of Robinson and Maxwell roads last month.

The police said in a statement yesterday that the Land Transport Authority had reported the matter to them, and also complained about the stickers that were pasted on a pavement near Lau Pa Sat, as well as on a road traffic sign along Robinson Road.

Paint-stained stencils and sheets of round stickers printed with captions were found in the woman's residence when the police arrested her.
With the same shape, size, captions and typography, the seized stickers appear to be the same ones making the rounds on traffic light buttons and road signs.

It is believed that the suspect is Ms Samantha Lo, founder of online magazine RCGNTN, which is dedicated to showcasing local art talent here.

The police have classified the case as vandalism under Section 3 of the Vandalism Act, Chapter 341, and investigations are ongoing.

If convicted, the woman could face a fine of up to $2,000 or a jail term of up to three years.

'Police take a serious view of such irresponsible actions and warn that offenders will be dealt with severely,' said a spokesman.

According to RCGNTN's website, Ms Lo is a sub-editor of several online publications and a content curator for The National Art Gallery's Canvas project.

She also has a Tumblr page with photographs of the circular stickers in various locations, as well as a shot of the stencilled 'My Grandfather Road' painted on the road in front of the Ministry of National Development building.

Images of similar stickers with captions such as 'Free Sticker Lady' and 'Press to Release' surfaced online last night after news of the arrest broke.

Some were accompanied by messages in support of the woman.

Many had earlier speculated online that the stickers could be part of a marketing stunt or a school project.

Internet users had also responded positively, sharing pictures of the stickers online and remarking on their light-heartedness.

Some of the captions on the stickers that had earlier tickled passers-by included 'Press Once Can Already', 'Press Until Shiok' and 'Press To Time Travel'.

Ironically, one also read 'Anyhow Press Police Catch'.

Suspected vandal breaks her silence
By Jennani Durai, The Straits Times, 6 Jun 2012

THE young woman believed to be behind the recent spate of graffiti here has broken her silence after shunning the public eye since her arrest on Sunday.

Ms Samantha Lo, who goes by the moniker SKL0 on social media, said in a message on Twitter yesterday that she was 'more than grateful' and 'truly touched' by the support she has received. 'Just wish the media will (sic) leave my house.'

The 25-year-old is the founder of online magazine RCGNTN and a content curator for the National Art Gallery's Canvas project, among other things.

Ms Lo had claimed last Wednesday that she and RCGNTN were not behind the stickers and road paint when The Straits Times asked if she was responsible for them.

'This is not the first time I have been asked this question,' she said in an e-mail reply.

Mr Olivier Henry, a friend of Ms Lo's, said she did not mean any harm by her street art. 'She is someone with a big heart. She has always wanted to create and express her love of life in different ways.'

Artist's arrest revives vandalism debate
Online petition calls for ministry to reduce her charge to public nuisance
By Jennani Durai , Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 6 Jun 2012

THE arrest of a young artist on Sunday has renewed a longstanding debate on graffiti here: Art? Or vandalism?

The woman, believed to be Ms Samantha Lo, founder of online magazine RCGNTN, was arrested for using a stencil to paint 'My Grandfather Road' on some public roads. She is also allegedly behind the quirky stickers pasted on traffic lights all over Singapore.

She has since been released on police bail pending further investigations. But since her arrest, a movement in support of her has sprouted overnight.

While supporters acknowledged that she had broken the law, an online petition asking the Home Affairs Ministry to reduce her charge from vandalism to public nuisance garnered more than 9,000 signatures by press time last night.

The offence of public nuisance carries a maximum fine of $1,000, while anyone convicted of vandalism can be fined up to $2,000, or jailed for up to three years, as well as given caning for men.

The debate about whether graffiti is art or vandalism has flared up several times, such as in January 2010, when a marketing push by Singapore Post that involved graffiti painted on post boxes alarmed many who believed a serial vandal was responsible. Later that year, Swiss national Oliver Fricker was arrested for trespassing at an MRT depot and painting an MRT train with graffiti.

Police yesterday said 'substantial resources' were diverted to identify the culprit behind the case, in addition to the 'considerable time, effort and cost to clean up the roads and affected areas'.

'Vandalising public property is a very irresponsible act,' said a spokesman.

However, the debate online has largely been in support of Ms Lo.

Petition organiser Stephenie Choy, 22, said Ms Lo's arrest was sending the public mixed signals.

'If on the one hand, the Government is pumping so much money into the arts scene, but on the other it arrests a harmless street artist, it sends a double message across,' said the fine arts student.

Among those who called for a lighter touch were Ms Nicole Seah of the National Solidarity Party, and Nominated MP Janice Koh, who said the stickers and stencil work were clearly tongue-in- cheek, and that street art was not vandalism.

In a note on Facebook, Ms Koh said the online petition for the artist's charge to be amended was 'a reasonable middle ground', and she hoped the authorities would deal with the artist leniently.

'It is almost impossible to talk about developing a culturally vibrant, creative or loveable city, without some tolerance for those slightly messy activities that sometimes challenge the rules.'

But Ms Indranee Rajah, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Information, Communications and the Arts, disagreed. 'This means that when you are practising your art, you have to have regard for where you do it so you don't impinge on another's rights,' she said.

'Whether it is art on pavements or on manhole covers, art per se is not an issue if you get approval.'

Artists, too, were divided on the issue. Some, like artist and curator Zaki Razak, 33, said Ms Lo's works had merit as graffiti is supposed to be a form of subversion and not to complement industry or national objectives.

Community artist Felicia Low, 36, said that while Ms Lo's works were 'courageous', any public art involves a negotiation with the authorities, the land owner, and the public viewing the art. 'If you want to go against a certain norm as part of your art work, that's fine. But at the same time, the expectation that you shouldn't be caught, or that there should be no repercussions is a bit unrealistic.'

'Sticker Lady' stirs art debate
by Tan Weizhen, TODAY, 6 Jun 2012

The arrest of a 25-year-old woman, who is believed to have painted on roads and pasted stickers on road traffic signs, among other things, has re-ignited a perennial debate over what should be the right balance in Singapore between law enforcement and allowing room for creative expression.

This newspaper is not revealing the identity of the woman, who is the founder of an online magazine, as she has not been charged with any offence. A police spokesperson said the woman is currently out on bail.

News of her arrest has become a talking point - on whether the woman's acts, which included stencilled messages of "My Grandfather Road" on several roads, should be deemed vandalism or, at worst, public nuisance.

An online petition, calling for the authorities to see it as a case of public nuisance instead of vandalism, which carries a heavier penalty, is making the rounds.

Many prominent figures, including those in the arts community, have weighed in.

Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh said on a Facebook post yesterday that she does not "see street art as being the same as graffiti or vandalism".

"For Singapore, it would be useful to make a distinction between this kind of art and outright acts of vandalism that seek to deliberately destroy public property for its own sake," the stage and television actress said, adding that street art all over the world "sits on that uneasy line between artistic self-expression and vandalism".

She noted that the works by the woman, dubbed "Sticker Lady" by the online community, can be considered as street art, as they were "clearly tongue-in-cheek expressions of themes and social behaviours that resonate with many Singaporeans, and which we all identify with and find humorous".

Ms Koh said: "I do hope the authorities will deal with this case of Sticker Lady with a light touch. It is almost impossible to talk about developing a culturally vibrant, creative or loveable city, without some tolerance for those slightly messy activities that sometimes challenge the rules," she said, and stated that a charge of public nuisance instead of vandalism would be "reasonable middle ground".

The other side of the coin

In response to TODAY's queries, a police spokesperson said it had diverted "substantial resources to identify the suspect involved" and carried out "intensive inquiries and legwork".

"This is on top of the considerable time, effort and cost to clean up the roads and affected areas. Vandalising public property is a very irresponsible act. Offenders will be dealt with in accordance with the law," added the spokesperson.

Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency Member of Parliament Indranee Rajah, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Information, Communications and the Arts, as well as artists TODAY spoke to, noted that the intent behind the works of "Sticker Lady" was not malicious in nature - in fact, they appealed to many Singaporeans because of the local context.

Still, Ms Rajah pointed out: "Although I don't think it is graffiti - in fact some of her slogans are interesting and strike a chord - but artists still have to respect property rights and ask for permission."

She added that, going beyond expressions of creativity, it is also about Singaporeans learning how to live in shared spaces, where other people may not always be of the same mind regarding what they do.

Artists themselves have differing opinions on how expressions of creativity should be straddled with the need to respect laws.

Street artist Trase One, for example, believes that it is about working around regulations. "I like to take restrictions as a challenge and come up with alternative solutions that don't outright break laws, given that we have to respect sets of rules," he said, adding that he likes the works by "Sticker Lady" but think that she has somewhat crossed a line.

Artist and curator Alan Oei, however, put the onus on society, not artists, to frame its attitudes towards the arts and creativity. "The law should be applied in relation to a society's morals and values, which includes our attitudes towards art. It's not just about the law, but how people view the law," he said.

Doubts over leniency call for 'Sticker Lady'
Some say law should take its course as her supporters change tack
By Feng Zengkun, The Straits Times, 7 Jun 2012

A GROUP of netizens yesterday pledged to distribute stickers to rally support for a young artist arrested for vandalism, but by last night had changed tack.

They feared it would complicate the woes of Ms Samantha Lo, the artist who allegedly pasted stickers on traffic lights and stencil-painted roads and buildings with Singlish phrases. Instead, they will now distribute stickers to creative agencies and foreigners not currently in Singapore, they said.

They were among the band of netizens who yesterday continued to express support for Ms Lo - nicknamed Sticker Lady - who was arrested on Sunday night and is now out on police bail.

Supporters are pushing for her to be charged with causing a public nuisance instead of vandalism.

About 12,500 people have so far signed an online petition to get her charge, if or when it is filed, downgraded to that of an offence under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

They say the Act, applicable to those being tried for defacing a public building, wall or fence without permission, is more appropriate because her alleged actions were harmless. Those convicted under the nuisance Act can be fined up to $1,000.

Those found guilty of vandalism, on the other hand, can be fined up to $2,000 or jailed for up to three years; if the perpetrator is male, he may be caned.

But a number of netizens are also saying that the push for leniency is misguided.

Among the minority saying the law should take its course is sales manager Benjamin Kong, 39, who wrote in a Facebook post that special treatment for Ms Lo would 'go against the spirit of a good legal system'.

He told The Straits Times yesterday: 'If you want to support a culture of innovation, petition to get the law changed instead.'

Pleading leniency for her just gives licence to those seeking to override the law for their own ends, he added.

Lawyer Chia Boon Teck said the authorities have to consider the consequences of taking the case lightly, as it may embolden others to push the envelope.

'Where do you draw the line?' he said. 'If I draw a yellow line outside my house to stop cars blocking my driveway, is that art or graffiti?'

Others said the authorities are following a precedent. Swiss national Oliver Fricker was charged in 2010 with vandalism for spray-painting graffiti on an MRT train; he was also charged with trespass at the MRT depot.

Advertising executive Eugene Liao, 29, said: 'Even if you feel sympathy for Ms Lo, let the judge make his decision first. She may not get the full penalty.'

Meanwhile, the woman at the centre of the storm has replaced her original Tumblr page with the image of a sticker.

The page used to have photographs of the circular stickers in various locations, as well as a shot of the stencilled 'My Grandfather Road' painted on the road in front of the Ministry of National Development building.

The 25-year-old - who founded online magazine RCGNTN and is a content curator for the National Art Gallery's Canvas project, among other things - last took to social media site Twitter on Tuesday to say she was grateful to her supporters and touched by them.

'Sticker' Lady -Hri Kumar
Hard Truths of Sticker Lady -Unbranded Bread n Butter 
Keep Some Of The Artist's Works -Five Stars and a Moon
"My Grandfather Road" a patriotic movement or a marketing trap?
Why I will not sign the petition to save the Sticker Lady -Singaporeans Say
Sticker Lady: What is Art?

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