On October 2, I previewed Lise Baggesen’s “Mothernism” installation at Ordinary Projects in the Mana Contemporary building (2233 South Throop in Pilsen). We took off our shoes and climbed into the tent that serves as an interactive centerpiece to the exhibition. What follows is an abridged version of our rich conversation about Mothernism the book and the artwork. (Matt Morris)
Newcity: What compelled you to write Mothernism?
Lise Baggesen: The book grew out of my thesis project, and the funny thing was that actually at the time the book was not supposed to have been written, because I was trying to escape making a formal written thesis. Visual and Critical Studies is a part of Art History [at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago], so a lot of the people in it, probably half of the group, went through it in a purely theoretical, academic track, and a lot of them have moved on to PhDs now. The other half of us had studio practices, but I think I was the only one in the group with a really long studio practice before I came to VCS.
At some point I got really frustrated, particularly in the first year there was so much emphasis on the theory. They were still talking about this post-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary way, but they were more talking the talk than walking the walk, I found. And so I did a project in Joseph [Grigely]’s Research and Production class where I started using this alter ego. The first one was Alice B. Ross, and she’s more of a loner than the subsequent Queen Leeba. Leeba is more family-oriented than Alice is. Alice is more of a hermit recluse who will go back to the studio and make love only once, but dream and dream. Her notes to self really became about the studio practice as this space where your voices can live. She dabbles in theories about quantum physics and David Bowie and Doctor Seuss and ‘un-slumping’ yourself and how the studio practice can be that un-slumping’ and how it can also be the slump that you find yourself in.
That project really became an eye opener for me about how writing could become a part of my studio practice rather than just being the writing you do about your studio practice, through writing artist statements and all this stuff. Suddenly it was a point when the writing informed the work while it was being made and dared me to go places where I wouldn’t have done. For instance, Alice made these really big velvet Morris Louis glitter paintings. I was not sure about that, but Alice would totally do it. I was in conversation with this voice I’d put into the world that then became a type of daring.
The first half of writing the thesis in VCS is a lot of group talk, you know, group think—throwing it out there, pulling it apart. Kind of rigorous… I’ve just said ‘kind of rigorous’ which is terrible. What happened was that every time I brought motherhood into this kind of conversation, there were a lot of people among my peers that really wanted to shut the conversation down. They were like, ‘We don’t want to hear about this mothering here. You can’t bring it up as a feminist in art discourse. We don’t want to hear about it, and we don’t want to talk about it.’ Read the rest of this entry »