Photo: Art installation titled ‘Golden Stairs’ by Ms Priyageetha Dia

By Teresa Teo Lay Yan

Turning a flight of stairs in a HDB block into ‘gold’ does create some controversial in an orderly, clean and green city such as Singapore.

The ‘golden stairs’ controversy has gone viral over the past one week and even led to a full-page coverage by The Sunday Times. The situation appeared to be a standoff between the artist, Ms Priyageetha Dia and the Town Council authority over the controversy of its appropriateness to be seen as art. It was confirmed in the news that she would eventually remove her art installation with no specific date given.

In the midst of the controversy and the netizens’ positive and negative response, the news report stayed neutral and weighed both sides of the coin, gathering feedback from various stakeholders. According to the news article, the younger respondents in their 20s were more positive of the art installation as opposed to the older respondents in their 40s or 50s and one of them is a Chinese- speaking senior. Based on the profile of the interviewees (unsure if it is a non-random sampling), very interestingly, it seemed to portray a liberal younger generation versus an older, conservative, law abiding generation when it comes to art appreciation. They don’t mix like oil and water.

Why is this so?

I am surprised that the news article did not mention about courtesy, respect, responsibility and accountability. Yet, these are basic human core values we need to consider in face of any controversy and standoff, whether it concerns an artist or a layman. The parties concerned need to weigh the do’s and dont’s, the permissible and non-permissible, the safety and well-being of others and self, to resolve their differences amicably, which itself is already an art.

Singapore is regarded internationally as one of the most developed city state and pride ourselves of our modernisation, infrastructure and economic progress. In terms of achievements, we topped the PISA ranking, won the Olympic gold medal and attained many international accolades. However, achievements and economic progress do not necessary make this place a home. Is the people and the basic human core values such as courtesy, consideration, respect, responsibility, honesty and accountability and many other virtues we uphold that make this place a better home and a gracious and peaceful society to live in.

Have we lost them? Art could be the answer to this question.


About the Author

Ms Teo Lay Yan Teresa is the founder and managing director of Dove Doodle Pte Ltd. She writes for the Company’s blog and engages the community through the visual arts. To learn more about the author, CLICK the ‘Founder’s Profile’.