What does a 1906 French short film by Alice Guy-Blaché have in common with Josephine Baker and Marlene Dietrich? They’re being honoured in the exhibition Goddess: Power, Glamour, Rebellion (Goddess exhibition) being held at the Australian Centre of the Moving Image in Melbourne until 1 October 2023.
The Goddess exhibition celebrates the women and gender-transcending superstars who shaped their own roles, took creative control and fought a system that tried to exploit them. It does so through moments from over 120 years of moving image history highlighting iconic stories, characters and moments.
The exhibition includes never-before-seen costumes, original sketches, interactive experiences and cinematic treasures, including iconic outfits worn by Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Geena Davis and Margot Robbie. The women featured in the Goddess exhibition are far more than the bombshells, starlets or screen siren stereotypes that were used to undermine them.
French links in the Goddess exhibition include a 1906 French short film Les Résultats du féminisme (Consequences of Feminism), from Alice Guy-Blaché. A gender-bending comedy which sees men raising the kids, ironing and sewing while women smoke, drink and prey upon the ‘weaker sex’ with lurid advances. The short film addresses the fears about feminism not being about euality but about waging war on men. It playfully suggests that men wouldn’t tolerate being treated the way women are so why should they expect women to.
French Légion d’honneur awarded Marlene Dietrich is also celebrated in the Goddess exhibition, with pieces worn by her on show. These include
- patent leather and silk grosgrain ribbon Delman Tuxedo pumps, kindly provided for the exhibition by the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandizing, Los Angeles; and
- 14ct gold and ruby cufflinks from Marlene Dietrich’s personal wardrobe courtesy of Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich.
Marlene Dietrich made her own path and courted controversy for doing so. The first lesbian kiss in cinema wearing a tuxedo was by Marlene Dietrich. She was reprimanded in Paris for wearing trousers. A flyer from the Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong in Shanghai Express film is on show at the Goddess exhibition.
Another woman embraced by the French is Josephine Baker who Goddess celebrates for weaponizing glamour. Baker was the first African American woman lead in a feature film, Sirens of the Tropics (1927). Though the film and Baker’s ‘banana dance’ conjured White colonial fantasies, her performances parodied the sexualisation of Black women.
Baker was also a war hero for the French Resistance. When Germany invaded France in World War II, Baker weaponised her glamour to defend her adopted home. After spying on German officers, she smuggled top-secret messages in her underwear unsuspected. Back in America, she wouldn’t perform for segregated audiences and was the only woman who spoke alongside Martin Luther King Jr in the 1963 March on Washington.
The Goddess exhibition includes sketches for Josephine Baker’s stage costumes Eric De Juan, 1949 (courtesy of Fashion Institute of Technology SUNY, FIT Library Unit of Special Collections and College Archives), and an exhibition print by Michael Ochs, 1951.
The Goddess exhibition is an ode to be a boundary-breaking, glass-ceiling smashing women and is on at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image until the beginning of October 2023.
KEY INFO FOR GODDESS EXHIBITION
WHAT: Goddess: Power, Glamour, Rebellion exhibition
WHERE: Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Gallery 4, Lower Ground, Federation Square, Melbourne
WHEN: 5 April – 1 October 2023
HOW: Purchase your Goddess exhibition tickets via the ACMI website: https://www.acmi.net.au/whats-on/goddess/
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices are as follows:
- Full price: $25
- Concession: $24
- ACMI Member: $22
- Family (2 adults + 2 kids): $65
- Child (4–15 yrs): $15
- Group (6+): $22 per person
- Flexi: $35