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Rockin’ the Casbah

Vanessa Victoria, Punk

Venue : The Substation, Singapore


Vanessa, trying hard not to roll her eyes at our bourgeois tendencies, when we spotted her at the Discipline the City exhibition

Tell us a bit about what you’re wearing.

Wow. Just clothes right?

Haha! Well, any level of detail you’d like to include is fine with us…


This shirt is quite new, it’s from a festival I attended this year in June, in Denmark. The shirt itself is the official merchandise from the festival and yeah, I really loved this year’s design. There’s a snake and just this raw essence to the design.

It’s my second time at this festival which is one of the biggest punk festivals -I would dare to say- in the world. It’s amazingly managed with tonnes of bands. I am just constantly in awe of the way they run things.

Well- organised? Isn’t that like the antithesis of the punk philosophy? (From what little we know of it anyway)

Well, that’s the thing. You start to realise that there is organisation in chaos.

It may not be organisation in the way that we typically understand it since we live in a capitalistic society where the idea (of organisation) always leans towards hierarchy- but yeah, they have managed to do it in a way that’s respectful to everyone.

It’s actually pretty linear and everyone pulls their own weight and has their own emotional commitment to what they’re doing. They’re not just doing it because it’s their job.

Things are different when they are not “results-oriented” – god I hate that word! (The festival is) 3 whole days of drunken chaos, but an incredible amount of organization and management go on within that chaos.

Are those earrings? What are those even called?

What we thought were earrings

They’re called “plugs.” Some people call them “gauges,” but that’s kind of a weird word. It’s how you describe size, it’s a term used in engineering, like when you refer to the size of pipes. My lobes are stretched out to about 1 inch and the process of stretching is painful, yes.

Then why do it?

I genuinely like the aesthetic of it, and I’m also a bit of a sucker for pain. Most of the time I actually wear them hollow (i.e. with the earlobe entirely stretched out, displaying a large hole). I have them filled in today because I was teaching, and so that the kids don’t ask too many questions. This way, they just think I’m wearing sparkly earrings!

After a while, I noticed patterns in when and how I decided to increase the size of the holes. It ended up becoming a very emotional process.

Same with my tattoos. They started out being about aesthetics, but after a time, I realized that they had meaning. I also started giving them meaning, and they became something more.

Something more?

Ok, look at this forearm:

Said forearm

So when we were running blackhole, we had a wall of thank-you letters from people who stayed in the place, or who came to meet us. And at the top of the wall, we had painted “Bands and Friends” – so it was a wall dedicated to just that, bands and friends. So when the place shut down, and as an homage to it, I decided to dedicate this forearm to bands and friends.

These are physical bands, and they are all done by my friends, whether they are legitimate tattoo artists or not! Some tattoos are deliberately left unfinished, done by people overseas. (The thinking is), that they will finish the tattoos whenever I see them next.

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