MEICOST ETTAL: HD Video & Musical Performance
Meicost Ettal is an animation and musical performance exploring the psychological tension between the religion, creativity and sexuality of Ludwig II, 19th Century King of Bavaria. The film charts a period of Ludwig’s life where he dreams of building his monarchy in the vein of Louis XIV, through the construction of lavish and beautiful castles. Opening with bold assertiveness, Ludwig’s excitable pre-construction plans are reflected in multi-plane, spliced and re-rendered paintings of castles commissioned by Ludwig at the time. Over the course of the film, Ludwig's propensity for anxious self-reflection results in the castles switching from being the reason and pure essence of his creative being to becoming heavy load-bearing burdens on his mental stability. The film's digital construction breaks down accordingly, and metaphorically, towards its culmination. The narration of Meicost Ettal, drawn from Ludwig’s personal diaries and notes left to his aides and architects, emphasizes his desire to inhabit a mythical, theatrical world of his own creation and his struggle between his sexuality and religion adds further to this alienation from reality and his eventual downfall.
The score of Meicost Ettal was written by composer Dominic de Grande and Ludwig is played, in voice over, by operatic performer Simon Butteriss.
“Almost everything in all his buildings was made directly under his aegis. The decorative ensembles were a direct projection of his personality and no alien artefacts carrying undisciplined memories and meanings could be allowed to intrude upon their absolutist egocentricity.”
L’ETAT C’EST MOI
King Ludwig II of Bavaria is arguably most famous for two things: Firstly, his patronage of Richard Wagner and secondly for the construction of three magnificent castles in the hills of Bavaria. His castles are melodramatic (almost histrionic) escapist temples to his belief in absolute monarchy. Originally constructed for his personal pleasure and to provide hermitage in his growing isolation, they are now, ironically, crowded with international tourists.
As an insular and sensitive child Ludwig had developed an intense appreciation of the theatre and this love of the theatrical, where he could find solace from the world, became a driving creative force in his maturity. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the most instantly recognisable of Ludwig’s major building projects, Schloss Neuschwanstein, became a stage set. Demonstrating a level of arrested development that he would sustain throughout his life, Ludwig gave substance to his dreams; dreams heavily inspired by that early fascination with the theatre and in particular Wagner’s romantic Gothic vision of the middle ages. The designs for Neuschwanstein were lifted straight from theatre sets, from Lohengrin to Tannhauser (by the superb scenic designer at the Court Theatre, Christian Jank). Therefore, it is here at Neuschwanstein in this castle of legends and Teutonic myths, that Ludwig displayed his talent for the appropriation of styles, often to the detriment of any innovative approach to design. Despite the highly derivative aspect of Ludwig’s commissioned works of art, they were of an outstanding quality and absolutely unique. Rather like Walt Disney’s architectural plans for Disneyland where he invented streets that evoked nostalgia for an America that never truly existed, Ludwig’s intention with Neuschwanstein was not to create a copy of any particular gothic castle, but rather to build a “curious original invention of the nineteenth century”. He was lifting stylistic details, themes and leitmotifs from a number of different sources and obsessions and this eclecticism led to a peculiar and original aesthetic. However, unlike Disney whose driving force was one of engagement with the public, Ludwig’s visual language was insular, a soliloquy.
The King was specific in his instructions not to display initiative or originality by departing from the agreed designs.
By the time Ludwig’s obsession with building had begun he was already demonstrating the reclusive characteristics and idiosyncratic behaviour that would have him declared insane, removed from the throne and eventually lead to his death. As he lost his grasp on his sovereignty and withdrew from his role in the constitutional process he paradoxically focussed more of his attention on creating shrines to the idea of absolute monarchy. As self-control dwindles, self-assertion inflates.