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At the intersection of feminism, science fiction, and disco, Mothernism aims to locate the mother-shaped hole in contemporary art discourse. If the proverbial Mother is perhaps perceived as a persona non grata in the art world, because her nurturing nature is at odds with the hyperbolic ideal of the singular artistic genius, Mothernism amplifies her presence, channeling her energy, complexity, and sublime creative potential in a series of intimate and critical reflections. The resulting collection of letters — dedicated with love from one mother to her dear daughter, sister, mother, and reader — fuse biography, music, art, and history into an auto-theoretical testimony that recalls and redefines the future imperfect.


Lise Haller Baggesen (1969) left her native Denmark for the Netherlands in 1992, to study painting at the Academy of Art and Industrial Design in Enschede and the Rijksacademy in Amsterdam. In 2008, she relocated with her family to Chicago, where she graduated from the School of the Art Institute in 2013 with an MA in Visual and Critical Studies. Over time, her painting practice evolved into a hybrid production, including teaching, curating, writing, and multimedia installation work.

She has shown internationally in galleries and museums including Overgaden in Copenhagen, the Municipial Museum in the Hague, MoMu in Antwerp, Wurttembergischem Kunstverein in Stuttgart, CAEC in Xiamen, The Poor Farm in Manawa, Wisconsin, 6018 North, Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Mothernism is her first book.


“Being a mother, that most universal yet personal experience, has always been a creative act, albeit rarely acknowledged as such. In Mothernism, Lise Haller Baggesen calls it for what it is: generative, radical, bodily, intense, staggering, connective, and then some.” — Lori Waxman

“From cleavage to cobras to cherry popping, Mothernism is both a contemplation and call to action vis-à-vis the position and shape of the MOTHER in contemporary art and culture. This smart and often hilarious series of letters and observations address the direct MOTHERing experience as a kind of radical personal economy. For Lise Haller Baggesen, the MOTHER is the agency. Baggesen is from the generation of female art makers whose only option is everything and all at once. Mothernism is spry and accessible, sometimes a battle cry, and sometimes a lullaby. Fourth Wave Feminism has a new manifesto.” —Jennifer Reeder

Mothernism. Ha! Baggesen could’ve stopped there. But I’m glad she didn’t. She is not one for cheap irony. Her tack sharp wit ultimately gives way to sustained theoretical analysis required to unpack such a funny but formidable elision. Besides, irony, no matter how pointed, does little if any justice to the all too real ‘mother-shaped hole in contemporary art discourse,’ a Mary Kelly-shaped hole to be specific. And if that lacuna weren’t wide enough, between, say, Tiqqun’s Theory of the Young-Girl and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, mothers contend with a representational force field that amounts to a funhouse mirror, making Baggesen’s reflections a welcome rallying point. But it’s clear from the get go that this ain’t about galvanizing soccer moms in a campaign against texting and driving. Negotiating the eddies and whirlpools of an intergenerational feminism makes a retreat into any kind of movement all but impossible, leaving Baggesen to speak for herself. She is a demographic of one. Above all, Mothernism is rooted in Baggesen’s voice whose tone is by turn tough, tender and by the end of the book, downright touching. A seamless mixture of cultural criticism, theory and biography, the essays double as a paean to disco and an open letter to her daughter. Engagingly conversational and endearingly confessional, Mothernism finds Baggesen (long my fashion idol) psychically naked one minute, and speaking frankly of sequins the next. Yummy Puffy Mommy Yoni, Yummy Yummy.” — Hamza Walker

Founded in 2005, The Green Lantern Press is an artist-run, non-profit press focused on emerging or forgotten texts that bridge contemporary experience with historical form. We celebrate the integration of artistic mediums. We celebrate the amateur, the idealist and those who recognize the importance of small independent practice. In a cultural climate where the humanities must often defend themselves, we provide intimate examples of creative thought. In October, 2014 we are partnering with Sector 2337 to open a contemporary artspace and research bookstore in Logan Square, Chicago at 2337 N Milwaukee Avenue.

Poor Farm Press is the publishing imprint for the Poor Farm.

The Mothernism text available on this page refers to my thesis of the same name, as it was presented to the committee in April 2013. It is the manuscript for the audio track which is still part of the installation, presented with the corresponding audio. Each letter can be read and listened to, by clicking on the links below the Mothernism banner (Mother of Invention etc.)

A thoroughly edited and expanded version of the text, with pictures of the installation, was published in 2014, by Poor Farm Press and Green Lantern Press (see above). It is available through SPD:



At the intersection of feminism, science fiction and disco, “Mothernism” aims to locate the mother-shaped hole in contemporary art and discourse.

The central hypothesis being examined is if the proverbial Mother is perhaps perceived as a persona non grata in the art world, because her nurturing nature is at odds with the hyperbolic ideal of the singular artistic genius.

But what do mothers really do? They nurture and educate other people. Like artists and curators they give them a piece of their minds and, sometimes, their bodies.

In keeping with this generous principle, “Mothernism” is a hybrid project consisting of visual, spatial and textual components forming a synergetic, immersive whole: Through the letter writing and art production of the fictional alma mater Queen Leeba it explores the perceived schism, as well as the overlap, between mothering and artistic and curatorial practice.

Mothernism operates as a practice-based approach to critical research, and engages what can be dubbed “confluences of influences”: seeking to eke out information not solely from primary sources, but more importantly from their non-obvious interconnectedness.

Professor and Chair, Painting and Drawing Department,
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Dean of Graduate Studies
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Ph.D., Associate Professor Visual and Critical Studies & Liberal Arts School of the Art Institute of Chicago

This Thesis is submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts.

Department of Visual and Critical Studies
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, May 2013

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