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Current time:0:00Total duration:7:28

Video transcript

our necks are getting a little tired looking up but it's well worth it we're in the Vienna secession building and we're looking at Gustav Klimt 8th oven freeze the secession artists decided to do something really radical and design something entirely around sculpture by max klinger of Beethoven and their idea was to make a total work of art involving architecture sculpture painting and music and the idea behind exam consists work or a total work of artists to unite the Arts and the idea was that that unification of the Arts was something that had been lost the notion of the Tomkins firket come from Ricard Wagner who had conceived of operas that were of course music as speech but also set design and costume something there was a totality of the arts and it was this notion of a kind of lost ideal at the opening of this exhibition Mahler's version of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was playing and one could almost hear that music here Beethoven was seen as an isolated heroic misunderstood genius someone who the artists of the 19th century could really identify with just before painting the Beethoven frieze Klimt himself had been terribly persecuted for the frescoes he made for the university and so that idea of alienation of the lone genius these are romantic notions that really must have resonated at this moment Beethoven frieze now resides in the basement of the Secession building in a room that exactly mirrors the room that it first occupied the frieze begins on the long wall with a very spare composition most of that law wall is empty space just plaster but at the top you see a series of figures in long flowing gowns that seem to float or almost fly softly across the surface their eyes are closed their bodies are elongated and these are Genii I or figures that represent the idea of humanity's longing the genie I are interrupted in one area of the frieze which shows first a young girl nude and we see her in profile she's virtually just an outline her hands are clasped she seems quite timid and it seems to be sort of bodying hope next to her two figures on their knees who also are nude these figures represent suffering humanity pleading with a knight who's decked out in golden armor with two female figures above him representing ambition and compassion and see that ambition holds a laurel wreath as if it's egging the knight on the figure of the knight has a helmet at his feet and carries an enormous sword there is this notion of seeking a kind of heroic mythic figure that could be a kind of savior Austria and Germany of course will distort these ideas in terrible ways where people are looking to insane fanatical figures as their Savior think Hitler and others and in fact some of those types of leaders were emerging in Vienna in the 1890s so let's go on to the next wall which represents the forces that the night is here to save humanity from these are the forces of darkness that end the wall is painted very darkly and visually functions as an obstacle through which the night needs to move he needs to both be able to vanquish and also to be able to resist the temptations on the far left of this end wall we see the three Gorgons those are mythical Greek monsters they were three sisters who had snakes for hair the most famous of which of course is Medusa they were lethal but they're also painted in the most seductive way and above those three Gorgons are the figures of sickness madness and death also represented by women the figure that takes up the largest portion of the wall however is the figure of just pure evil and that's the mythic creature of typhus when you look at typhus you can certainly recognize it as an ape-like head and chest but the entire mass of decorative painting to the right is also typhus you can make out an enormous bluish eagle-wing and below that a kind of infinitely articulated most serpent-like body and within that serpent and wing we see another female figure who represents gnawing grief where as so many of the other figures are rendered in brilliant gold or blues she is all gray and black draped not only with her own hair but in a thin veil the figures just to the right of typhus represent the sevilla sness wantonness and intemperance the jeanne I do emerge and the last wall is light again this wall represents a kind of salvation for mankind in the arts and so we see a figure playing a lyre representing poetry and music which is just beautifully draped in brilliant gold there's a heavily ornamented surface that you can see the applicants on her dress are actually built up from with gems that reflect the light it's almost like an ancient Greek Vaz painting and it's linear and decorative qualities in this last portion of the frieze the genie I now emerge vertically there's a sense of fulfillment that longing has been satisfied they look like they're in wrap and they seem to be moving almost in a kind of rhythmic response to music at the end of the ninth symphony Beethoven incorporates a poem called the ode to joy' buy Schiller which is this triumphant piece of music where an enormous number of voices harmoniously rise to the music they express a kind of intense fulfillment one of the lines in Chile's ode to joy is the kiss to the whole world and in this phallic shape at the very end we see a man and a woman in an embrace wrapped in a golden decorative cocoon with the Sun and Moon on either side in fact water seems to swirl around them binding them together and their bodies are so close they seem to almost merge neither of their heads are visible so they are their love it is this summation of the yearning that this entire frieze has been about and it seems to be such a perfect visual expression of a way in which Beethoven's music comes to a kind of extraordinary crescendo I