Artistic expression or criminal vandalism?

I was browsing through yahoo news online yesterday when an article caught my eye.

A 25 year old girl in Singapore has recently been arrested for painting the words “My grandfather road” on several roads in the country. Her “crimes” also included the sticking of self-designed stickers with captions such as “press to time travel” and “anyhow press police catch,” at strategic public places. She has been labelled a vandal, and faces the possibility of a fine, a 3-year jail sentence, and even caning.

Since the news broke, the public appears to be divided in opinion regarding her arrest. A proportion of people feel that her actions are simply an outflowing of creative expression that should not be stifled; yet, there are others who argue that vandalism is vandalism regardless of whether it is creative or not.

All images from http://skl0.tumblr.com/

I personally think that her “vandalism” seems pretty tame. It is quite creative indeed, and I think it would put a smile on my face should I come across a traffic light button that I could press to time-travel. I would probably walk away from that particular traffic light feeling a little more lighthearted than I did a moment ago. I think what she has done is subtle and fun, much unlike the loud and offensive graffiti that we more commonly associate with vandalism. Besides the spray-painting of public roads (this is less acceptable as it is harder to remove), I don’t think her stickers can really count as vandalism. Posters and advertisements are stuck on walls, bus stops, overhead bridges and random pillars all the time, how is a tiny little sticker any different?

Singapore has become infamous for being a place where you can get punished for every tiny little thing you do. I remember one of my friends telling another mutual friend who was planning a trip to our little island, “Be careful when you are there, you could get killed! They’ll hang you for chewing on bubblegum.” Of course, this friend had been exaggerating to get a reaction out of me. However, for that to come up as a first thought regarding travel to Singapore is saying something about the impression we are making on others. You get fined for chewing gum, fined for littering, fined for jaywalking, fined for eating on the bus or train, and now, fined for sticking stickers on traffic lights.

I am not saying that having laws and living by them is bad, what I am saying is that sometimes they are just not necessary and all we need is a little bit of common sense. When we lose our ability to use our common sense and depend too much on stringent law that dictates what we can or cannot do, we become a society that is uptight and inflexible, boring and unimaginative, filled with law-abiding and degree-holding graduates who cannot accept creative expression in a way that has not been prescribed by the law.

Thinking about street art that could potentially count for vandalism has led me to think about Ben Wilson and his works. Ben Wilson is an English chewing gum artist who creates tiny masterpieces on gum that is stuck to the pavement. His paintings are so intricate and beautiful. Whoever knew that disgusting gum on the ground can be turned into tiny canvases that would bear smile-evoking pieces of art?

Images from http://www.lifeartworks.com/amazing-bubblegum-art-ben-wilson/

Creativity is beautiful, and its beauty is expressed through art.

Art is a lunatic, it cares not for rule or reason.

Let us embrace the beautiful lunatic and its psychedelic dreams, lest life takes on a boring shade of black and white.

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