In voluntarily tearing down her Golden Staircase, Priyageetha Dia made an even bigger artistic statement

Photo: Priyageetha Dia / Facebook
Photo: Priyageetha Dia / Facebook

Proving once again that Singapore isn’t exactly a welcoming country for creative expression and pursuits, an artist’s attempt at guerrilla art for the masses hasn’t been met with widespread appreciation.

Instead, the artwork sparked some displeasure among everyday Singaporeans and tetchy statements from the authorities, as well as countless thinkpieces debating if Priyageetha Dia’s gilded HDB staircase is legally (and morally) permissible or not.

In case you missed the whole hullaballoo, Priyageetha — a fine arts student at Lasalle College of the Arts — covered a flight of stairs at Block 103 Jalan Rajah in gold foil in an artistic contrast against the “ever lifeless and grey architecture”. We could dedicate a whole essay to its significance and how it’s simultaneously a complement and contrast to the mundane, brutally pragmatic surroundings of Singaporean aesthetics (or lack of) — but we’ll just leave the installation to your own interpretation.

Nonetheless, folks were thinking less of its artistic merits and more about its legality and safety. Jalan Besar Town Council assured that the whole thing was “unauthorised” and “not permissible” by their count, and vowed to investigate the case of “vandalism”.

After leaving it up for prolonged public discourse across all platforms (including Parliament itself), Priyageetha took it upon herself to kill her darling. Last Saturday, she removed the gold foil that once adorned the staircase, and only left a small square as a remnant of its past controversial glory.

Assuring Channel NewsAsia that the self-destruction of her work was voluntarily removed, she noted that her work had already ran its course. “To me, my work is already done,” she stated.

But by leaving just a little square of gold foil on the staircase, the artist may have made a louder statement — a work that actually says more about the state of our country than its previously flashier iteration.

“All that glitters must be controlled,” wrote prominent playwright Alfian Sa’at on the recent development of the Jalan Rajah Golden Staircase.

“Look at that square of gold in the corner. Probably all the beauty we really deserve. Or all the space we’ve resigned ourselves to.”

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