Lily Benson

Love Letter from A Daughter of the Gods

(excerpt) HD Video with live soundtrack. 5 minutes. 2018.

In 1968, Charlotte Moorman, avant garde cellist, was arrested for performing Naim Jun Paik’s Opera Sextronique at the Filmmakers Cinematheque in NYC because she was topless. In 1907, Annette Kellerman, founder of synchronized swimming, was arrested on a beach in Boston for not wearing the skirt attachment of her full-length bathing suit. Both of these incidents contributed to legal changes in dresscodes for American women. 

In 1916, Annette Kellerman starred in A Daughter of the Gods, the first Hollywood film with a million dollar budget and to have a nude character, played by Annette. Despite the film’s critical success and wide distribution, no copies remain. Film collector, Mary Ann Cade, suspects that the last remaining copies were tossed into the New York Bay after the film’s studio was acquired.

For this video work, it’s imagined that Charlotte Moorman rescues the lost film from the depths of the bay. We find that while underwater, the film transformed into a love letter to its own star. 

In tribute to Charlotte’s and Annette’s indecent exposure charges, the work is often accompanied by Lily Benson as a shirtless female cellist.

This project was presented as a performance & film screening at Spring Break Art Fair 2018, The Hand Gallery, Temporary Agency, and CAVES Gallery in Melbourne, Australia