Where digital perfectionism meets with the messy, unresolved nature of being human
If you worked in recruitment, you’d probably market Becky Freeman as a “digital native”. The Australian interdisciplinary artist is best known as electronic experimentalist Sui Zhen (her Chinese Malaysian middle name) but her practise spans graphic design, film-making and creative direction, with the Internet as her primary medium and method. These skills – alongside experience in the tech sector – lend themselves well to the visual-driven nature of social media; channels that she fully knows how to exploit in order to reach new audiences.
Speaking to me in my Edinburgh bedroom over a sputtering 3G connection from the other side of the world in Australia, she explains that while music was her original focus, things would only really fall into place after she decided to make her creative practice as capacious as possible. “I always wanted to do music in some way but I was only ever seeing what was right in front of me as the next step: I never dreamed too big at first. Music felt immediate because it was always something I knew how to do myself and didn’t need to do collaboratively.
“Later, once I was more confident with song-writing, I started to bring my other interests into the context of making music videos or the marketing of my material,” she says. “I saw opportunities to be creative with how I promoted myself, and this was at the beginning of artists using the Internet to get their music out there. Now I guess is the perfect time for musicians who have a multimedia approach to making music, because they can actually utilise all of their skills.”
It was in this process of raising awareness of her music online that she developed one of her lasting obsessions: the division between our “real” and “curated” selves. The two-dimensional, airbrushed facade that we present online all too often doesn’t correlate with our IRL experiences, which are littered with the disappointments, heartbreaks and bad hair days that don’t make it onto the highlight reel – something that Freeman explores through alter-egos Susan and Linda. Susan came first, the protagonist of 2016’s LP Secretly Susan. Linda is a more recent addition and the star of forthcoming follow-up Losing Linda.