In music media, context and backstory are often conflated as the storyteller attempts to organize and explain the circumstances by which an artist and their work came to be. "For me, the worst nightmare would be ending up with a film that's somehow a construction of an artistic figure that had this singularity and a kind of growth path, if it started with photos of childhood and then talking to different people in chronological order about when they knew me," Terre Thaemlitz, the mind behind monikers like DJ Sprinkles, K-S.H.E. and G.R.R.L., tells director Patrick Nation in Give Up On Hopes And Dreams. For Nation, executing the documentary meant challenging many of his filmmaking instincts. With help from story editor Lawrence English, he had to move aside urges to shape the narrative in a linear or overly conclusive way.
On Thaemlitz's suggestion, the film is structured via listening protocols from activist-led sound art collective Ultra-red. As per these protocols, she picked five friends and collaborators, each participant brought a series of objects (in the form of audio, text, film or physical items) relating to her or her work, and the group engaged with the object by sharing what they heard or saw. The exercise took place over three days, with the discussion time for each limited to 20 minutes. Shot in 2018 at the Shizu Community Centre near Thaemlitz's home in Chiba, Japan, participants include friend and collaborator Aiko Tsuji, activist Dont Rhine, translator and lawyer Izumi Yoshida, cyberfeminist Laurence Rassel and producer and artist Mark Fell.
So much of cultural production and the development of cultural "icons" isn't owed to raw talent, dogged work ethic or even one's life experiences alone. More often, it's facilitated by casual conversations and so-called "object" exchanges between kin, friends or comrades. These invisible collaborators hold the potential to spark new insights that evolve work and points of difference against which an artist's personal vernacular and philosophies can be developed. In Give Up On Hopes And Dreams, viewers become acquainted with the deep house and ambient "icon" through excerpts of her work and interpretations of self, but also by the company she keeps, how she articulates herself, butts heads, listens and learns in an improvised community setting.