COVID Companions is a series of creative pieces featuring snippets of life during COVID-19, with a special focus on the other individuals or creatures who are keeping us company during quarantine, lockdown, ‘circuit breaker’, or whatever your equivalent might be.

by Jenny Cheng, with her daughter Jill J. Tan

interloCUTER, contact tracing (2017–Present): Upon Jenny’s request, Jill began collecting her used daily contact lenses for a year while living in Chicago. The resulting sculptural pieces Jenny made with these contact lenses, which hardened in storage and were then rehydrated for shaping and colouring, foreground the grotesqueness of biological mattering and contact, and the intimacy of handling them, as belied by their resultant forms of pastel colour sheets and flowers. The act of collecting from a distance also began a performance of archiving connective organic and inorganic tissue bearing the mother-child relation that strains and sprouts intimacies over space and time. (see also: interloCUTER, contact tracing for soft/wall/studs’ Recirculations)

About this series

interloCUTER, home (May-June 2020): Jenny has continued to make micro-sculptures with Jill’s contact lenses, even when they are together. This series shared for Covid Companions was made while they have been quarantining in their home in Singapore, following months of quarantining together in Connecticut before that. The form and thinking of these sculptures made at home, about home, continue to meditate on the concerns of the larger project of interloCUTER, with an additional set of questions: 

What does it mean to navigate distance while maintaining close quarters? How can we explore collective yearning for the world outside the confines of our apartment that has come to bound our existence? How does collaboration happen in the domestic sphere as we continue to make life together in material and immaterial ways? 

Jenny: Covid-19 turns lives upside-down for many but less so mine. I get to say I experienced this dreadful pandemic both in the USA and Singapore with my family.  As the spread of the virus raged on in March while I was in New Haven, I felt I was in control. It was alright for me simply because my daughter was right there with me. I even got to paint a green jelly while living with what was happening outside my daughter’s house. Back in Singapore, life seems normal for me even though the circuit-breaker is in place. I have time for art. When I am at it, I am without a care. All other thoughts are pushed away. It is a good place to go for a while. The reality of this troubling situation remains. For how long? I do not know. But I just know that I am a lot more fortunate than many others out there who are trapped, afflicted and are longing to be with their family.

Jenny: Cooking eggs at home: who makes the eggs, who likes their eggs more cooked or less? Who else do I wish I could feed outside of my home? This plate was given to me by my godson, from a trip to Turkey during his secondary school days almost 25 years ago. I was glad to be able to fill it with something I made.

Jenny: The flowers I plant always die. I made these flowers out of contact lenses instead. The soil gives me thoughts of planting new flowers–this part of me has not died. Although it may seem like I have given up on planting I have not.

Jenny: My neighbour’s flowers are in bloom. I wonder how they are doing. These are the flowers I never had.

Jill: How can home hold our longing for other people, beings, worlds that are inaccessible to us right now? I am dreaming of this being an embodied, capacious forging of connection that makes us more grateful for the bonds around us that we can feel and touch. This is not about escapism, because I don’t think we can afford that right now.

Jill: These domes are dotted with other life forms we haven’t seen in a while. It does not escape me that in imagining their copresence from where we are, these mediations of the basic forms of contact lenses are the most involved, yet.

Jenny Cheng is an artmaker, homemaker, and mother. Her creative practice spans painting portraits, sewing stuffed animals and toys, and mixed-material sculptures. She is drawn to capturing the affect of sadness in her paintings, making projects with and for her daughter, and enjoys engaging in play with food, textures, and make-believe with children. Her work has appeared in Mynah Magazine and soft/WALL/studs’ Recirculations. She does not believe in showcasing her art on social media.

Jill J. Tan is a Singaporean writer, artist, and PhD student of anthropology at Yale committed to collaborative practice, co-theorization, and multimodal exploration through games, interactive performance, and poetics. She currently works on projects on death/dying, children’s dance practice, socially-engaged art, and parasitism and mutualism. Find her at

Read her previous submission here.