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Asian Public Art News
Art and similar interventions in public space. Coverage moves outwards from Singapore through Asia to the rest of the world. Like nothing else, the idea of "public art" exposes the contradiction inherent in our ideas of "the public" and of "art".

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Sunday, February 08, 2009
  Cow Under Surveillance
Cow Under Surveillance
Cow Under Surveillance,
originally uploaded by Sentosa Girl.
Asian Public Art News welcomes good advertising in public spaces. We're not like the Mayor of Sao Paolo, Brazil, who banned billboards.

A recent self-promotional foray by Singapore outdoor ad co, Moove Media, an arm of public transport giant Comfort Delgro, raises questions. Today's Sunday Times had the news that more than 200 of the 600 CNY-themed cut-out cows placed in public spaces had been stolen, despite the presence of "cows under surveillance" signs. So, the natural question, in law-abiding Singapore: why did so many people steal the cows? 1) Because they loved them so much and wanted to take them home? 2) because they hated them and thought they were a blight on the urban landscape, and wanted to remove them?

Purely aesthetic motives don't begin to capture it -- this sort of "theft" is all about authority. My guess is that the cow-eye-lash surveillance signs and the ease with which the cows could be removed together constitute something just short of an invitation to vandalize... (it wouldn't be vandalism if you were overtly invited to "steal this cow"). You are invited to transgress in a safe and relatively wholesome way that will give the advertising company lots of free publicity. And this almost-invitation to transgress is probably quite powerful, especially in law-abiding Singapore. I'm guessing that "number of cows stolen" was a KPI for this particular campaign - how else to get this sort of publicity (well timed for a slow news day)?

What was the ostensible reason for placing the cows in public spots around the island? Says Moove Media CEO Jayne Kwek, "to bring cheer and hope to Singaporeans". (Makes me a bit depressed, really. ) When asked whether the cow campaigns have a commercial point: "Even if the benefit is intangible, it doesn't matter as that's not the point. To me, the landscape is my canvas and this is art..."

Well, I think outdoor advertising execs should try and be just a little more humble or thoughtful about the public space which is "your canvas". As for your art, we thought the white elephants of Buangkok were actually a lot more interesting and cheerful than your cows. They were also the victim of some sanctioned vandalism...

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# posted @ 10:46 AM 1 comments | add a comment

Maybe they were not stolen and it was made up to get media attention?
By Anonymous ARDT, at 1:41 PM  

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