For art's sake

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 1997, 12:00am

It is an unusual artist who shows his contempt for a different art form by vandalising it. Most prefer to demonstrate their own artistic superiority by creative rather than destructive means.

Pun Sing-lui, the man who attacked the statue of Queen Victoria, is certainly unusual. At an exhibition last year, he cut open a chicken's neck and drank its blood to symbolise the shock people may feel in getting used to rules and regulations after the handover.

Now comes what he may consider a greater punishment than the 28 days he spent in jail in September. He has been banned from a seminar run by the Urban Council, where he had been booked to lecture. The booking, needless to say, was made before he turned Victoria into the red queen.

According to an Urban Council spokesman, the ban is because he has contravened the council's principle of respecting art pieces, not because of his prison sentence for criminal damage. His fellow artists seem to see this as an attempt to limit artistic freedom. They point out that he has paid for his misdeeds, and that, if a government body interferes with his right to work, it sets a dangerous precedent.

That is the only issue of concern in the episode. Vandalism is not art; it is a criminal act. We must suppose Mr Pun now understands that, and will find wiser means of artistic expression.

The Urban Council should not ban him, or it may appear to be practising a form of censorship which smacks of repression. The defence of freedoms should find room for one artist, however misguided some of his endeavours may have been.