Loose Canons: Vanessa Crofskey
Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.
Vanessa Crofskey is a writer and artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau. Her work spans poetry, performance, essay and installation, because she’s an indecisive Libra. She likes to interrogate language, intimacy, architecture and swimming.
Described as a ‘star of spoken word’, Vanessa was the recipient of two Auckland Fringe Festival Awards in both 2017 and 2019; the Auckland Theatre Company’s Here and Now Award and the Auckland Arts Festival Fringe Award plus twice for best show in the Spoken Word category. She is the Auckland Regional Poetry Slam Champion for 2017, and a previous Slam Champion of the University of Auckland.
Her poetry has been performed and published widely, including in Scum Mag, Dear Journal, Hainamana, Starling, Turbine | Kapohau, Kitaab (Best of 2018) and Auckland Museum. She has written essays for the NZ Herald, The Pantograph Punch and The Spinoff.
Having trained in sculpture, Vanessa has exhibited in online and offline sites since graduating from AUT in 2017, ranging from the Performance Arcade to RM Gallery. She is a Window Gallery curator for 2019, was the 2018 Producer in Residence at Basement Theatre and performed in Alice Canton’s Other: [chinese].
I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying a few years ago during a strange marathon devouring of self-help books. I’m a messy person by nature, an emotional hoarder by trade, and uncertain by anxiety. Basically, my bedroom floor is a junkyard mood-ring I can’t escape out of. In the winter of 2017, my carpet was strewn with mouldy cups, Looksharp knicknacks, depression sweaters, tattered undies and hoarded bus receipts I was convinced were going to be important to me.
I read Marie Kondo because I wanted to change my life. I wanted to read this book then divorce my husband. For all the flack that she gets, her methods are sure, they are simple, and unbelievably, they work. Marie Kondo’s soulful tidying has undoubtedly changed my life alongside millions of others. She has done an enormous duty in my fairytale transition from bedsheet gremlin into someone that vacuums weekly.
Kondo’s method can be expanded to fit how we might make a better relationship to art. Imagine if before we created anything we thanked and paid respect to our space and materials, we made sure to hold onto our joys and to display them proudly, we let go of what no longer served us and interrogated the true purpose of what something brought to the table? There would be so many more good things created and so much less wastage!
Kondo’s perceptions around domestic space, animism, emotional processing and maintenance should grant her an honorary doctorate because they have truly informed how I live and make. She is a genius babe with a genius heart and a genius brain.
I don’t eat, I snack. Snacks are what keep me joyful and alive and functioning. As they comprise most of my diet, I am very passionate about them. This can make me brand-loyal and argumentative to the point of being ridiculous. I am also very passionate about drinks and can talk for hours about how different dairies in Auckland stock their fridges. If you want to know which stores you can find the Teza mango and ginger flavour in, call me. If you think that salted caramel is inventive or that wildberry is the best Fruit Burst, you need to consider how your actions impact others.
Food is a bridge relating people to people and cultures to cultures. I think about snacks a lot in terms of how colonialism, classism, capitalism, imperialism interrupt our everyday lives. It’s the sword and the healing. What I eat has been a source of pain for me but my favourite snacks have provided me with nostalgia, safety, joy and connection. So much can be illustrated by what you fill up a pick’n’mix bag with, and mine is filled to the brim with sour tastes and crunchy textures.
ACCEPTANCE & COMMITMENT THERAPY
A lot of the things I do revolve around how we relate to and care for one another. Behavioural therapy and psychotherapy have been deeply influential in my learnings around relationships. The theory I engage in about harm reduction, trauma, shame, addiction, and empathy have meant that my emotional analysis of a situation runs very deep. Because I have worked through understanding my own experiences, I am able to understand the emotional cores of a friend/colleague/crush/character/subject quite intuitively.
Being in therapy has helped me to understand how I want to relate to others and care for my own creative process. I have learnt to set boundaries on my care, time and labour. I have learnt how to communicate with others in a way that protects me and nourishes them, to stand my ground and communicate my needs. ACT therapy especially has made me a better person, a kinder friend and firmer in my values. I see it as a very kind way to regularly check in with myself, to make sure I am prioritising my emotional health and an integral part of looking after myself as a writer/artist.
BALENCIAGA PLATFORM CROCS
Beauty and appearance are both very important to me and so are the high fashion platform Crocs of 2018!!!
I own three pairs of Crocs. I love them unironically. One of them has flames on the sides like Guy Fieri. I think I’m very interested in Crocs in how online culture has sustained the life of what should be a moderately-ugly-yet-supremely-functional shoe. And yet they are not ugly, they are exceptional. Despite their company getting liquidated or whatever, Crocs remain perversely popular and will live on in meme culture forever. They are impressive in that they have infiltrated both alternative subcultures and high fashion runways. Their stubborn mum-ishness thrives in defiance of cultural values.
Crocs to me are like how high school girls can wear anything they want and the ripple effect of Social Capital suddenly makes scooters, jelly sandals, zipper earrings and push up bras desperately cool. I think about writers and artists like Fresh & Fruity, Tiqqun, Arabelle Sicardi, Amalia Ulman, Sarah Sentilles, Mona Hatoum (anyone who Amanda Robinson recommends really) that speak to the relationship between beauty, aesthetic, violence and desire. Crocs are an acceptable deviation from the norm and a mild transgression of values. I think I wear them because they are abnormal but cool which is how I tend to feel. What is abnormal helps to broaden the beautiful - and what could say that louder than shoes punctured with tiny holes? The more that beauty deviates, the more we are able to transform what is acceptable. Beauty is a way of coping, seeing, punishing, surviving. Desire is how we choose what we value. I used to think I was not beautiful and now I think I often am, but mostly when I am wearing Crocs and telling someone off. I am trying very hard to campaign Crocs onto the cover of Playboy because I think they are sexy and that everyone should wear them. Does this make sense or are they just really comfortable shoes?
ASIAN BABES DOT NET
A few years ago I was too embarrassed to admit I was half-Chinese to others, to be perceived as foreign or exotic in any way. I hadn’t been in a room full of other Asian people since I was the lost cause student of Wellington Chinese Language School. I used my ethnicity as a ~ fun quirk ~ to get gamer boys to like me, I didn’t really have any other Asian friends in my friend group, nor anyone who wasn’t… European, really. When I looked in the mirror I felt like an alien. I was deeply, deeply ashamed of being Chinese and thought that it made me slutty, prudish, a nuisance, old-fashioned, ugly, an object for abuse, uncool, interesting as a fetish. I felt very lonely and very, very weird about the whole thing.
I am much more grounded in my identities now. I find I know myself a lot better and know who I belong to. I know that I come from a strong and smart family and that by through them, I belong to my ethnicities. I know that my own self-acceptance wouldn’t have happened without the women and nonbinary folk who have helped transform me. They are strong and pretty and very very worthy. Here is a small list of some of the people that have helped me to heal. I’ve made it short so I won’t bore you. I’ll start with: Alice Canton, Julie Zhu, Rosabel Tan, Jenny Zhang, Marilyn Chin, Rose Lu, Nahyeon Lee, Florence Yee, Amy Weng, Kerry Ann Lee, Nat-Lim Seah, K Emma Ng, Vera Mey, Yuk King Tan, Nisha Madhan, Qian Ye Lin, Adrienne Yap, Marie Kondo, above all my 外婆 and my māmā.