(UPDATED on 5 June to insert petition details)
Members of the art community in Singapore have gone online to petition against the arrest of a street artist who was arrested on Sunday for vandalism.
The 25-year-old woman suspect is believed to have painted “MY GRANDFATHER ROAD” on several roads here, including on a stretch of Maxwell Road that directly faces the Ministry of National Development building.
She also allegedly created the circular, black-and-white stickers, with captions such as “Press to time travel”, “Anyhow press police catch” and “Press to Nirvana”, that were found around Lau Pa Sat and Robinson Road, and was arrested by police at her home.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) had made police reports after spotting the slogan and stickers.
Officers from the Central Police Division, with help from the Police Intelligence Department, found several paint-stained stencils and many pieces of stickers printed with captions at the home of the suspect, who is known by her moniker “SKLO”. These items were later taken away for investigations, reported Channel NewsAsia (CNA).
According to CNA, the police are investigating and are working with LTA on earlier reports of stickers found affixed on other pedestrian crossings at various places.
A person who is convicted of vandalism shall be punished with a fine of up to S$2,000, or jailed up to three years and caning.
The arrest has been met with outrage from art lovers, who are calling for “less restriction in public art”.
An online petition has also started on www.change.org, a website that claims “to promote social change by the use of online petitions”.
By Tuesday evening, about 7,500 people have put their names to the petition. A Facebook event page has also been created to get more people to sign the petition.
Stephanie Choy, the creator of the Facebook page, wrote that she had started the page because “I am not happy by the constant censorship of art in Singapore”.
Choy, who described herself as a “future arts educator”, urged those who agreed with her “that the arrest of this particular artist is unwarranted and that there should be less restriction in public art” to join the event.
She added that she intends to consolidate all the names and send it to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts, the Ministry of Education and The Straits Times Forum.
Facebook users were quick to support Choy’s cause. One of them, Ken Chin, wrote that “Singapore needs to let art speak for itself” and called the arrest a “suppression of creativity”. He added that Singapore cannot claim to be a place where art is supported and nurtured “because in this instance, it truly shows how backwards and uncultured” the country is.
Another user, Victor Kok also commented on Yahoo Singapore's Facebook page, "You call this vandalism?… This is encouraging art and creativity, do we need a licence to be creative?"
His views were echoed by Ashura Chia who said, "This adds creativity and fun to the otherwise boring environment."
However, there were also dissenting voices who said the suspect’s actions have no place in Singapore. As Remus Cheng put it, "our society has no place for such impromptu creative acts … and [Singapore] is very much law-by-law".