Discipline the City



Another Space is Possible? Art Creating Urban Space in Singapore

The discerning citizen is diligent in maintaining the cleanliness and beauty of the environment.

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In 2012, Singaporean street artist SKL0 came into public view when she was arrested for her playful and inventive sticker-bombing and stencilling in the Singaporean streets. Her arrest raised questions on the nature and value of street art in Singapore, and also brought to attention the controlled nature of public space in the city-state. Beginning with a look at the graffiti on The Substation’s walls, explore the evolution of SKL0’s street art as it shifts in context from the Singapore street in 2012, to her solo show “Limpeh” that focused on the figure of Singapore’s ‘founding father’ Lee Kuan Yew.

How does her work mobilise the urban aesthetics of resistance in street art in the Singaporean context, and what does it resist? And how do these aesthetics change as her work becomes sited in other spaces? The discussion will then turn to two different examples of art that evoke alternative or counter-cultural landscapes of Singaporean urban space: Sonny Liew’s controversial and celebrated 2015 graphic novel "The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye", and the pop-up "Melantun Records" installation assembled in response to the portrayal of Far East Plaza in David Bowie’s 1983 movie Ricochet. 

The conversation analyses these cases of Singaporean artistic cultural production as aesthetic works of resistance, what they resist, and speculate: what cultural resistance might look like in Singapore, and the urban possibilities they might create. 


Joanne Leow

Joanne Leow is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan. Her research and teaching interests are in the fields of decolonizing literatures, postcolonial studies, urbanism, ecocriticism, and Asian/Asian North American literatures. She has published on Southeast Asian literature and film, and diasporic North American literature in Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Canadian Literature, Studies in Canadian Literature, Journal of Postcolonial Writing and Journal of Asian American Studies. She is currently at work on a book manuscript on the politics of urban planning and cultural production in Singapore.

May Ee Wong
May Ee Wong is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory at the University of California, Davis. Her dissertation research examines the logics, aesthetics and imaginaries behind the notion of the global sustainable city in the age of ecological risk. Her research interests include critical conceptions of urban space, architectural and design history from the 1960s, Science Technology and Society (STS) studies, cultural politics, and visual culture and aesthetics. She has contributed essays to "Climates: Architecture and the Planetary Imaginary," "Evental Aesthetics," and "Reflect/Refract: Essays on Photography in Singapore."