Thursday, June 7, 2012

'Sticker' Lady

It has been interesting to read the many pieces on the net about the arrest of the Sticker Lady, both for and against her and what she did. People should be free to debate issues which affect them, and persuade others, through logic and reasonable arguments, to support their cause. That is a sign of a healthy society.

But is not clear what the particular movement - to excuse the Sticker Lady from punishment - is saying.

There is no doubt that what was done was criminal – an act of vandalism or nuisance. Is the object then to repeal the law altogether? That would make it legal for anyone to draw on or otherwise decorate public property? I don’t think that is what the vast majority wants.

Is what was done acceptable because it was creative or considered “art”? That gives rise to real difficulties as one man’s art is another’s poison. So what do we expect the police to do? Should they be art critics as well, and decide what is acceptable? I don’t think many would favour that. Or perhaps that should be for the judge? Would that not mean that the same work may be considered criminal by one judge and not by another? I rather more certainty, and less arbitrariness, in our criminal laws. The judge can always take into account the context, reasons behind and extent of the “art” in mitigation and sentencing. And sentencing does not have to mean jail.

Others have offered solutions, such as setting aside public space for those who want to exhibit their works. That sounds fair, although it would not have worked for the Sticker Lady’s “art”, which requires a context an exhibition area would not have. “My Grandfather Space” does not quite have the same ring. Still, we have to grapple with what constitutes acceptable art. I stumbled upon a statement in my Parliamentary colleague, Yee Jenn Jong’s blog. He said: “My suggestion is for the spaces that we set aside, set some simple rules like no profanity, no attack on race / religion, and then let whoever is in the approval committee decide with a liberal view when proposals come in.” "Proposals", “Approval Committee”? So, we need more committees to decide and approve such matters? Interesting.


  1. Dear Mr Hri Kumar,
    It looks funny from my side debating with you over this matter I do not encourage or hate street art first and foremost but the fact that you raise 2 points that itches me all the way to my skull.
    1) You said in your opening of the article, "People should be free to debate issues which affect them, and persuade others, through logic and reasonable arguments, to support their cause. That is a sign of a healthy society" and on the same breath you said you do not understand what people are in support of her is saying. So are you insulting your own intellingence by saying you do not understand what the supporters of the the Street art accuse is stating.....Let me tell you in my own words...What they say Open loosen...give more platform and encouragement we are not dealiing with Prisoners here. You have to admit she is Talented

    2)Yee Jenn Jong came up with a proposal and instead of looking at ways to invite him to work with you for our own Talent lack of support you hit back by criticising "Proposals", “Approval Committee”? So, we need more committees to decide and approve such matters? Interesting."

    Now I put my point across I live in Blk 148 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh #05-535 Singapore 310148 and and am your GRC contituent. When I cast my vote in the next election I ask myself what have you done that benefit us Singaporean. Yes, she committed an offence but do our system provide for her. Since you have been a lawyer for many years and I had been incarcerated also for many years we stand not far from the word Law. in 1990 I was sentence to Reformative training Centre in Court No 26 on the same dock with me is an Indian Lady. She stole milk powder from a provision store. Well at that time Milk powder will only cost much lesser than today. While in the holding area she was crying and I spoke to her to calm her " For your info it was my 70th over time I am produce in Court not that I am an idiot but because I am a stateward since a baby and everytime I abscond from the Shelter or Home I will be produce in Court. The lady answered me how can I be calm when my Baby do not have food.

    Till today her words still ring in my head. If she was provided for do you think she will be stealing baby milk. She did not have the courage to even speak in Court not to mention plead for leniency and was only sobbing throghout her proceeding. In those day the system do not have probation for Adult accuse and she was given a week jail. Is it fair for her if you have sense, please imagine being the baby of the lady I been speaking about.

    Dear Mr Hri Kumar, I am not a very intelligent person I only manage to attain A Level while in carceration and Prison was a place I call home becasue out here I have nobody and no home. In 1998 at the age of 24 and after 6 jail term I came out of Prison and start living life. Why 24, because this is the age people will look at me as mature and I am able to be make my life decision as an adult and I still go to Prison nowadays, not to serve time but to serve as a role model for releasing young Prisoner. Back to street artist I believe in Law and I also believe that Law protects the people and their property but who is more guilty here the provider or the Street Artist in this issue I say both. When the platform is not PROVIDED they will TAKE it at whatever the cost is. Protect our talent don't let the system gulp them down.


    Jasoel Lei Xu Le

  2. Hi Jasoel,

    Thanks for posting.

    There is no contradiction. It is good to speak up for a cause, but it will help persuade others if you made your cause clear. It is easy to say “open up” or “loosen up”, but the argument becomes difficult when you get to the practical details. I highlighted those difficulties in my post. And if these issues are not addressed, the cause will not gain traction.

    Jenn Jong’s proposal illustrates the difficulties – we want to “open up’, but the suggestion was to have more red tape to facilitate that. Seems counter-intuitive. I also read an interesting piece that argued that “art” such as graffiti draws its appeal from the fact that it is illegal and anti-establishment. So having a bureaucracy manage such art actually defeats it. Further, as I stated, having a managed location would not have helped the Sticker Lady as her work will not have meaning without context.

    I am sorry for what you have been through personally. But the fact that you obtained your A-Levels while in prison shows that you are a determined and resourceful young man, and that you want to turn your life around. There are many opportunities out there for those who are willing to work hard, and I hope you succeed.

    The story about the lady who stole milk is sad, but also surprising as there are many schemes in place to help poor families. She would have been helped if she had approached her MP, and there is certainly no need to steal to feed her child. You are welcome to visit our MPS to see how residents are helped.

  3. So you don't get a reply from an MP but a lackey who is just going to tell you 'Shut up. Your opinions don't matter at all. We are awesome and if you disagree you're a nutcase'.

    Good job Hri. Next election if a cabbage stands against you, I am voting Cabbage. At least the cabbage doesn't treat me like a total idiot.

    1. The response to Jasoel was drafted by me but posted by a volunteer at my request. He inadvertently put his own name. You will however note from the language that it was a direct response from me. Apologies for the mix-up.

      I dont't know how anyone can reasonably read my response as meaning: 'Shut up. Your opinions don't matter at all. We are awesome and if you disagree you're a nutcase.' Who you vote for is your choice but it would help promote constructive dialogue if you at least try to read and understand what is written, even if your inclination and instinct is to lash out against anything certain people say.

  4. Dear Mr Hri Kumar,

    Firstly let me point my disappointment to "Hades" for posting such a pointless and distasteful remark on 10th June 2012. As far I am concern I don't mind who reply to my post as I speak my mind freely with no vested interest over the matter.

    Now, let me thank you for your reply and the offer to visit your MPS. I had volunteered in MPS under Moulmein Division from 1998 till 2001 under Mr R Sinnakaruppan. There I had witness how the unfortunate had been helped and introduced to multitude of scheme to help needy constituents cope with the numerous problem the faces. Above these, we always have appeals to government department and agencies on behalf of the constituents. Unfortunately I left on my own reason after Mr Sinnakaruppan retire from politics.

    Well, the story of the elderly lady (I say here elderly because at that time I am 16yrs old) is very much true. Though I never participated in any form grassroots outreach programs I am sure the welfare schemes we have today is of no match of the 80's and early 90's. Why am I saying it? True life experience. I was release from Reformative Training Centre in MAY 1993 and if I were to tell you on the next paragraph you will surely tell me it is shocking.

    In 1992 I completed my "O" Level and usually when you are due to be release you can't enroll yourself into Prison Education Unit Class. So, i was again forced to delay my studies. Fast Forward, May 1993 I am due for release and like everyone else I am brought to at that time MCD Buidling. There we are told by the probation officer of all the rules and curfew hours we should abide. Tick. We are told to get job as soon as possible. Tick. We are told to obey instruction of parents.......BEEP BEEP BEEP.......See.... The whole system I say again the whole system fall on me..........The way I was prepared for the release from Prison is like a red carpet for me to return there. Now about the scheme available in the 90's. I look up an MP, Honestly I cannot remember his name and tell him my problem and asked him What Can be Done? Surprisingly the MP told me to go directly to MCD(Ministry of Community and Development. Honestly I felt fooled.

    That's Life it is not filled with beds of roses and I do not live with resentment. I created my own problem I walk out of it myself. There are days in Prison I do not have dreams and got very worried about it. Why? When the body is imprison only the mind is free.

    Now to the subject of the sticker lady, it will be a pity if we were to lose her to the system or inflict fear to her artistic instinct. Scenario... When I am in Chicago recently for Trade show in Maccormick Convention Centre and was having lunch at a friends place and their children were climbing up trees and I caution the parents it is dangerous for the children and what the friend answered me change the way I look at perspective of things. He told me " Jasoel let them climb and if they have to fall, the doctors are always there to treat them and once the feel the pain the will learn BUT WITHOUT FEAR and THEY LEARN WITH EXPERIENCE.

    I believe you had climb trees yourself but do you see the children today do it? Why? Is it fear? Well i believe you had read somewhere about Singapore will not produce Bill Gates or Steve Jobs because of our system.

    Why is that so?

    We Singaporeans will always stand tall when we put our heart and mind together to achieve a common goal.


    Jasoel Lei Xu Le

  5. Hi Xu Le,

    Please allow me to give my two cents worth regarding the actions of the sticker lady. You mentioned that our system might stifle her artistic talent. While it may be partially true that lesser individuals might be put off by the system, have you ever considered that some of the world's greatest artists like Micheangelo never had to resort to such tactics in order to become great?

    Frankly speaking, I have never climbed a tree before in my life, but do I feel any less significant than someone who has climbed one before? No. Perhaps I might have missed out on the opportunity to get myself a little scratched or so, but it was definitely not due to fear. Likewise, would any of my schoolmates or I have been more artistic if the system was more relaxed? I do not think there is a clear answer to that.

    However, please do not confuse fear with adherence to the system. Many of my friends and I are law abiding citizens and we have no problem with that, but to suggest that fear is keeping our talents in check, surely that is a bit unfair? We do not need a wall of excuses to hide behind if we are lacking in such skills. But, if we do have the relevant skills, we know where, when and how to properly exhibit it.

    I wonder what Micheangelo would have to say about that?

  6. Hi Joseph,
    First let me thank you for the constructive reply to my comment and make you understand that I personally do support the "Sticker Lady" action but I am concern at the avenues the young could release the burning inspiration in them. Please note that she is not a copycat on some world notorious street art of rebel.

    Mentioning Micheangelo, I would say he was given a platform and lots of practicing. At the age of 6 he was already living with a stone cutter at a quarry own by his father after the death of his mother. Micheangelo himself said"If there is some good in me, it is because I was born in the subtle atmosphere of your country of Arezzo. Along with the milk of my nurse I received the knack of handling chisel and hammer, with which I make my figures." Was he given the platform? Yes. Only God knows how many Granite and Marbles had been to waste because of his artistic inspiration. Art is 1% Gift of God and 99% Practice.Even if we have Micheangelo living among us today in Singapore we will have very little chance of unearthing his talent because of limited platform and space for 13 year old artist and sculptor.

    Well, I don't mean if you learn to climb tree you become any wiser but I surely can say you'll become TREE smart in someway and whenever you venture out you and surely learn a thing or two. Thats is why in America youth always have a tree house in their backyard for those who believe in it.

    In reply to you third paragraph between fear and adherence of the system. I have to suggest you try to volunteer in Prison, Singapore Anti Narcotic, Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports Youth Probation Division and Singapore Aftercare Association. Just a brief of 2 person I can mention here hopefully with their blessings. Don Wong and Neivelle Tan (you can google for more detail about both of them) both have been imprison so many time over and over again and both also have near brush with the gallows. Did anyone believe at that time they could be what they are today? No. Now the question what made them change? The system? Surely they have no fear and has the least adherence to the law because being imprison is like going on holiday for them at that time.

    I shall leave my comment here and let you do the research.

    Best Regards

    Jasoel Lei Xu Le

    1. Hi Xu Le,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my comments.

      Yes, I cannot deny that Michelangelo had a certain amount of support, but it was also known that he did not have the most important support of them all. His father was not supportive of his ambitions and was known to have said to him in a rage: "artists are labourers, no better than shoemakers". What I'm trying to highlight here is that ultimately, what defines one's success as an artist, or any other vocation for that matter, is the personal determination to strive against all odds.

      Perhaps it is true that it would have been more difficult for Michelangelo to have appeared in our society, but I am sure it is more than just a matter of the system? Most children today are more drawn to the idea of the more professional jobs of the day, such as in the healthcare profession, law etc. You would be hard pressed to find one who wants to be an artist. Moreover, for the few of them who do exist, their parents would probably tell them off in a manner similar to Michelangelo's father. How can they even reach the limitations of the system when they cannot even get past the first hurdle?

      As for being tree smart, I agree that we have to do some exploring of our own in order to get experience. However, as much as I agree with that, the fact is that few parents here are generally supportive of letting their children run about unsupervised. As you mentioned earlier, you were also apprehensive when you saw your friend's children climbing trees. I do not think it is fair to push the burden onto the system when clearly, it is a multitude of factors that contribute to what our society is today. Of course, I am by no means saying that our society is bad, but that each outcome is a result of many factors. I am sure that you too can see that there are good points to our "rigid" system that other more liberal systems do not enjoy.

      I thank you for your suggestion and will keep it in mind. You sound like a very pious person and like the people you mentioned, I am certain that they had a conversion experience and had a change of heart, or perhaps I am wrong? Whatever the case is, I admire their courage and tenacity to get onto the path of righteouness amidst the circumstances.

  7. Hi Joseph,

    I would like to correct myself on the below statement being what I intended to say on the first few sentences of my earlier comment.

    First let me thank you for the constructive reply to my comment and make you understand that I personally do not support the "Sticker lady" actions.

    Best regards

    Jasoel Lei Xu Le