Those who took away pieces from the installation art, Everyday Aspirations, by Karen Mitchell not only showed scant respect for art, but also betrayed their Third-World mentality. This thoughtless act is not as bad, of course, as the defacing of an ancient Egyptian monument by a Chinese tourist (flamed earlier by netizens) but they share the same misguided notion that culture in public spaces is fair game for vandals and petty thieves.
The local artwork involves small wooden pieces with words like "laugh" and "smile" cut into them by laser. A total of 188 pieces had been removed from the exhibit, which featured in this year's Singapore Night Festival. Those who pinched the items might be using them as decoration. Perhaps some might even brag about their origin.
It would be too much to expect an apology from them, which is what the parents of the Chinese vandal offered. But, hopefully, their family members or friends will correct their thinking. Such behaviour should be checked, as it harms not only the work of artists but also hampers the ways art can be appreciated by all in public places.
Installation art is still new to many Singaporeans, but should artists ring-fence or protect their works with warning signs for this reason? The three-dimensional nature of installation art calls for unrestricted freedom to explore the work wherever located. Those who remove or damage parts of the work diminish the experience of art lovers who arrive later.
Perhaps, artists and aficionados could give public talks to help nurture a wider appreciation and understanding of newer forms of art. Or perhaps Ms Mitchell might offer a sequel for the next festival in the form of an empty platform entitled "Everyday Aspirations: Fulfilled?". If the 188 missing pieces turn up quietly on the platform, that would certainly be a work of art to behold.
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