Lily Benson

Love Letter from A Daughter of the Gods

Love Letter from A Daughter of the Gods is a video work about two visionary women, both arrested and jailed for “inappropriate dress” in 20th Century America.In 1968, Charlotte Moorman (avant garde cellist) was arrested for performing Naim Jun Paik’s Opera Sextronique without a shirt at the Filmmakers Cinematheque in NYC. In 1907, Annette Kellerman (founder of synchronized swimming) was arrested for not wearing the skirt attachment of her bathing suit while swimming at a beach in Boston.

Both of these incidents lead to legal changes in dresscodes for women. In the video, Charlotte locates the lost film A Daughter of the Gods (1916)which starred Annette as the first nude character ever to appear in a Hollywood film and the first film with a million dollar budget.

Despite its commercial success, no film historians have been able to locate a copy of the film. Some theorize that it was tossed into the New York Bay. In tribute to Charlotte’s activism that lead to NYC dresscode equality, the film is sometimes accompanied by live cello soundtrack performed by a shirtless woman.