#13 Chantel Foo's 3 objects
Parting with your first friend
Objectively is a series about our objects and the stories they tell.
We feature creatives who build their lives around objects, including makers, collectors, and curators. Leading with curiosity, the project views objects as an extension and embodiment of humanity, and hopes that exploring our relationship with them gives us new understandings of ourselves.
Kicking off our new season, we have Chantel Foo of Studio Lotusroot contemplating what it’s like to have to step into different versions of themselves, part with their first friend, and live without a phone.
Chantel Foo (b. 1997) (she/they) is a Chinese Singaporean artist based in London. Chantel’s practice is anchored in performance, working with movement, writing, Real Game Play and livestreams. Nodes of thought include: slippages, residual presences, selfhood and glitch spaces.
They founded and run a movement studio, Studio Lotusroot, which is a space for embodied encounters and somatic healing through movement. As a performer and movement director, Chantel has worked with artists such as Bones Tan Jones, Anne Imhof, Yeule and Lucinda Chua. She also works as a fashion model, and worked with brands such as Burberry, YSL Beauty, Loewe, Charles Jeffrey, and Adidas.
What’s an object that has helped you stay connected to yourself?
I suppose it's not a single object, but a set. I have rings I wear daily, and don't normally take off. Two thin gold rings my mother gave me, a green agate ring I got when I was on a school trip to Nanjing at 10 (my first taste of independence), and this silver chain I got from a job, which is the latest addition to the stack. I wear them specifically on my left ring finger, and on my right middle finger.
Because of how my life is, and the way my work forces me to step into different states of selves or personas, like how sometimes I'm in a whole new space and immersing myself into a world that isn't quite my own, this constellation of rings feels like a key and anchor to myself. I take them off when I'm stepping into a different version of myself, or a character, or when I need to channel something outside of me.
This significance began back when I used to LARP (Live Action Role Play) often, and would write these intricate characters to embody and go on these journeys on a parallel ego to mine. I'd take my rings off and switch off my phone, go days without them, and when the LARP was over, it was almost ritualistic to put my rings back on and re-enter my own reality. From there it's sort of extended into this consciousness. These rings feel like I'm back to a familiar state of self.
Now that I'm modelling more, I feel the need to almost draw a distinction from that version of myself to the one that I live with, day-to-day. The same goes with performing. Unless it's my own work, I do not wear my rings. They come back at the end of the day, and they're what I wake up and go to bed with. I wonder if it's because I lead a rather fragmented life? Or because I simply do not have a very cohesive or singular state of self, that it's important that these rings anchor and connect me back to myself.
Look back on an object that you used to interact with often but not so much anymore. Can you tell us more about it?
This one is special. You know a chou chou? I don't know how else to call it. It's an object of comfort you've grown up with. I call it my "bolstie" hahaha. It's a bolster/body pillow I've had since I was five, and it's very well-used, flattened where my knees would hug it.
I didn't think that much about it until I moved to London, and realise how much I missed sleeping with it, or how strange going to bed without it was. It's still back home in Singapore, and every time I contemplate carrying it back to London.
I'm not a soft toy person but this is the closest thing to what I imagine being attached to a soft toy feels like... It marked when I first moved into my family home and first got a big girl bed, and it used to be the biggest thing I knew. I'm adult-size now and it looks so tiny to how I remember it in my mind's eye. When I was younger my internal world was very hidden from the world and my friends, and I think bolstie was the only being/thing that was present for my heartbreaks, hurt and rage. It's like my very first friend like that.
Last February I went back to Singapore for a month, and I couldn't find my bolstie. My parents were convinced they had threw it away and I didn't know how to process that loss. I bawled like a child. It really felt like my inner child resurfaced and was grieving so hard. Fortunately my parents realised they had kept it somewhere else and I was quickly pacified. I don't know how I could part with it for real!
Lastly, what’s an everyday object you still interact with, and what would your life be without it?
My phone. I think about it a lot, and I don't know if I have answers! My phone mediates so much of my life and it's a bit alarming how much time I spend on it, out of necessity or leisure.
It interfaces my interactions, how I find and sustain community. How I learn about the happenings of our world. How people find me, see what I do, and book me for jobs. How I keep in touch with my family overseas. I also am a bit of a memory hoarder — maybe because of how I have experienced both amnesia and brain fog — I like to document my life with pictures and videos, and I also do that with my phone.
I think life without my phone would feel a lot quieter. I am a very tactile and analogue person, and I think it would help me to re-centre my life around that way of being. I think I'd write to my friends more (like penpals), I would paint more, read more, and look at the sky more. I think my life would feel simpler, but maybe I might always feel like I'm aside from the motions much creatives I know are part of, them being online. Hmm, but maybe my sense of self would be so apart from the selfhoods I navigate online that it's sturdy enough in the material, fleshy world!
Find Chantel on their Instagram, and learn more about their studio, Studio Lotusroot.
We share a new interview every Thursday. Coming up next week, we have our first Object Talks with a “fishing nerd” on tying his own fish flies 🎣