Introducing: Sui Zhen’s “Another Life”

A music video premiere, plus some words on it from the artist herself.

When I first started to write the treatment for the Losing, Linda videos I had a couple of distinct scenes in mind. The first was the red car pulling up to a house in twilight, watched from a distance and encased in branches to create an ambiguous mood — should I be scared? The house looks so inviting, but what’s happening? This became the opening shot for “Perfect Place.” The second scene was two figures ornamentally arranged on a bed around a third figure resting, posed as if in a Renaissance era painting adorned in flowers and filtered light. The latter image is what the “Another Life” video explores. 

I often look to Eric Rohmer for cinematographic inspiration, and find it in a few stills from The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (2007, set in 17th century) that stuck with me. Although a couple of months prior to shooting I had yet to identify the third figure, I had only thought of the character of the Woman (that’s me) and Linda (masked performer). In those preceding months, I had the urge to involve my sister; we look similar and are, in our own ways, versions of each other, and of our parents, so it fit thematically to involve her. And yet, I didn’t realize what the gestures we perform would come to symbolize as time moved on.

The whole piece was conceived as part of a greater whole which will appear in the Living Memory website. It was only when we were on the bed shooting the “sick bed scene” that I realize what I had recreated. My sister and I had experienced the trauma of seeing our mum pass away and here we are turning that moment into decorative art. In particular, working in themes of bereavement floral arrangements and those you see on the borders of well-wishing cards.

This clip was not my conscious intention, but my cinematographer Jensen Cope felt that it had to be made. On the day of shooting, I thought “Another Life” would be a good tone setter for our gestures. It was going to be a silent piece with these scenes buried in the website project. But I performed one take lip syncing. Jensen cut this and sent it to me suggesting we put it out. And so, here it is.

— Sui Zhen

Sui Zhen is an experimental pop and performance artist. Her new album Losing, Linda is out September 27 via Cascine.