Multimedia artist collective 66b/cell has developed a visual installation with projection mapping where visitors experience the beauty and artistry of Kellerman’s underwater performances in an immersive, sensory environment.
Annette Kellerman pioneered competitive swimming for women, starred in American silent films, published books and inspired generations of women.
Born in Sydney in 1886, Kellerman took up swimming as a young child. She became a teenage champion, excelled at diving and set world records in swimming. Having outgrown the pools of Sydney and Melbourne, Kellerman relocated to London aged 18.
She made headlines for her marathon swims in the Thames, Seine and Danube rivers and was the first woman to attempt to swim the English Channel. At a time when female swimmers were expected to wear cumbersome garments, she defied convention with her practical self-styled one-piece swimsuits, one of which she created by sewing stockings onto a men’s bathing suit.
As her star rose, Kellerman developed a vaudeville act which she performed in England and the United States. It combined diving, swimming and graceful underwater ballet with the elaborate staging of tanks, waterfalls and slides, supported by a large cast of water nymphs performing routines that foreshadowed synchronised swimming.
Kellerman starred as a mermaid character in a series of feature films and performed her own dangerous stunts. She wrote self-help books titled How to Swim and Physical Beauty: How to Keep It, and began a health food business after retiring from performing.