Up to 10,000 visitors attended Budapest's Pan-European festival called 'Biennale.' The two-week-long series of events offered more than 40 programs of theatre, films, fine arts, literature, music and dance at 15 premises.
Budapest’s Cultural Festival of Hungarian minorities was held for the second time in the fall of 2009. Supported by the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office (MEH), the program series was launched at the Feszek Art Club in Budapest with the opening of ‘Boundless Art’, an exhibition of photographer Otto Kaiser and graphic artist Bálint Bolygó. “The word ‘boundary’ is still meaningful today, even after Schengen,” said author Miklós Vámos, major patron of the festival, referring to the importance of the event organized by the AGENCY ‘Égtájak Iroda’. According to Vámos, many of the trans-border personalities, whether they live in the small town of Zenta (Senta, Serbia) or in Berlin, Germany, still believe their own mother country has given up on them, thus the major goal of the Biennale is to dispel such feelings. “All prejudice comes from lack of knowledge,” he added.
The festival was first organized in 2007 so that the Budapest public could get better acquainted with trans-border Hungarian contemporary art. Program Manager, József Goldschmied highlighted that the initiative two years ago proved to be such a great success that they had to organize a similar program-series the following year. “That ran under the name of ArtMozaik, as Biennales are not supposed to happen every year,” he pointed out. “During this year’s festival, we treated the term ‘trans-border Hungarians’ in a much broader sense instead of simply narrowing it down to the Carpathian Basin,” Goldschmied continued. “This way, the Budapest audience had the opportunity to meet artists with Hungarian roots living in Germany, Belgium, Canada, the United States and Israel, as well.” According to him, the government spends HUF 100 million on the occasion, and this year, HUF 130 million altogether on the trans-border Hungarian culture. “Organizing a Biennale only makes sense if trans-border art is continuously present in the mother-country, not just during but between the festivals held every other year, and this is what our office intents to do.” Goldschmied hesitates to say anything about the 2011 Biennale. “Unfortunately, this is not our call, it depends mostly on the current political scene.”
Throughout the two weeks of the Biennale, visitors could attend more than 40 programs at 15 premises; all presented a significant part of the trans-border Hungarians' culture. The opening concert of the festival was given by Philharmonia Hungarica, the world-wide known orchestra founded by emigrants of 1956, which was on stage for the first time following a 10 year break. The concert was conducted by Tamás Vásáry. The Israeli marimba artist, Asaf Roth was also among the performers with singer Bea Palya and ‘The Biting Sheep’. The virtuous violin artist, Roby Lakatos gave a concert with his childhood friends. The theatrical program proved to be the most visited, according to Goldschmied. “This part of the festival involved modern adaptations of classics, placed on Budapest stage for the first time, by ‘The Nagy József Regional Creative Workshop’ from Magyarkanizsa (Kanjiza, Serbia), the Jókai Theatre from Komárom (Komarno, Slovakia) and the Hungarian National Theatre in Kolozsvár (Cluj Napoca, Romania),” he explains. The Tamási Áron Theatre from Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfantu Gheorghe, Romania) had its very first premier in Budapest, as well, by staging Moliere's 'The Misanthrope'. The world's only national opera-company, the Hungarian Opera of Kolozsvár performed Verdi's 'Masquerade', directed by Tamás Ascher, while the Budapest Operetta Theatre and the Bucharest National Operetta Theatre presented a dual-language production of Gerard Presgurvic's musical ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
The center of the festival was the Fészek Art Club where those interested could have the chance to meet authors, poets, actors, directors, dance artists, singers, musicians, graphic artists and film-makers. “The 2007 Biennale made it possible for contemporary trans-border Hungarian artists to show the Hungarian public their creativity and their art that reflect situations of cultural identity busted from their very own being trans-borders,” Goldschmied notes. “This year's program aimed to deepen the process launched two years ago: to guarantee an pportunity for Hungarian artists living abroad to introduce themselves, to muster the creators of trans-border artistic life, to give a chance to the breakthrough of young talents and to help and support the creation of new productions.”
„Together in variegation”
The ‘Égtájak Iroda’ has been building relations for 14 years, through the vehicles of culture, between Hungary and trans-border Hungarian regions, as well as certain regions beyond borderlines. Their programs and events (Visiting Budapest - Meeting of Hungarian Trans-border Youth, Visiting Budapest - Hungarian Trans-border Theatrical Evenings, Corner Art Festival, Biennale) "have sprung up from one another", they are built on one another, strengthen and support each other. These cultural programs appear to be significant events not only in the life of trans-borders, but that of the local Hungarians, as well; they can contribute to the development of the cultural and tourist life of Hungary and its surrounding countries, making them more eclectic. Since 2003, ‘Égtájak’ has been acting as one of the professional bureaus of Hungarofest National Event and Festival Organizer Nonprofit Ltd, a background institution of the Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture.