Sunday, 6 June 2010

Breaking The Monotony Of Our Concrete Existence

The report of this Swiss national's graffiti stunt on *gasp* Singapore's MRT carriage - one of the hallmarks of our clean, untouchable and impeccable networks that form the bedrock of our pulsating economy - comes in the midst of my consumption of the book Can't Stop Won't Stop, a sociological and historical documentation of the hip-hop generation and culture by journalist and historian Jeff Chang.

While it is commonly accepted in our highly sanitized Singaporean society that graffiti = vandalism = bad, it doesn't come as a surprise that we'd get hit in such typical fashion as history would have it. Oppression breeds dissent, reactance and rebelliousness.

As I read a part of the book that talked about graffiti's entrada into institutionalized art, ZEPHYR, a reknowned graffiti artist, said: "People might say that graffiti really looks out of place in a gallery. But I think it's good if graffiti is out of place. Sneaking into these places is just what graffiti is supposed to do."

Given the historical significance of graffiti in the rise of the hip-hop generation during the 60s and 70s, Oliver Fricker's successful breach into one of the most uptight places on earth might, ironically, be a symbolic celebration of the power of hope and freedom in the most unlikeliest (and yet most apt) of places. Successfully utilizing Singapore's MRT carriage as a canvas instantly places his work at the pinnacle of graffiti art. Unfortunately, it has to come at his expense with our society's pragmatic way of asserting that this shouldn't be how freedom should be expressed.

Interestingly though, many people have complimented him on both his own boldness and the boldness of his art - through its shapes, colours and outlines - which has served to break the monotony of our concrete existence.

The episode actually also brings to mind the Walter Wabbit Do Good artpiece by local artist Dawn Ng, as covered by Juice magazine, who basically plonked a huge ballooned-up rabbit over various parts of Singapore in what I'd personally describe as a demonstration of controlled-subversion. In her displays, she takes mundane features of Singapore's landscape that we often take for granted and juxtaposes the huge blow-up bunny, which is the size of a public bus, against it. While it is unfortunate that I cannot find any pictures online, I particularly like the piece where Walter Wabbit slumps on a huge grass patch in the middle of towering HDB flats that have been ubiquitously designed in primary colours, titled 'Somewhere over a concrete rainbow'.

Juice attempts decently at summing up the message in a more friendly manner: "Singapore ain't prosaic and boring. It's a great city to be in. We just have to look at it as children again."

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