The festival, which has run over 10 days since 2004 and before that used to last for two weeks, is the festival of artists looking for news forms of events and ideas. Its primary objective is to introduce cultural creations of the current outstanding future vision to the public of Budapest with the involvement of as many art branches as possible. According to its self definition and its objectives its major task is to contribute to the familiarisation and the recognition of new arts in Hungary.
A major aim of the festival is to contribute to the realisation of the concept of “Budapest, festival city” and to reinforce Budapest’s cultural standing in Europe and its image as an important European cultural centre by inviting internationally renowned productions of new art and presenting its own or joint productions able to attract international attention.
In the last years the Budapest Autumn Festival became one of the major new-art events of the Central European region. Meredith Monk, Roscoe Mitchell, Michael Nyman, Robert Lepage, the Rosas Dance Theatre led by A. T. Keersmaker and the Jan Fabre Ensemble, the Ensemble Wiener Collage and the UMZE Chamber Ensemble were first in Hungary as guests of the Autumn Festival. The Soros Studio Theatre Days and the Bohémia Czech-Hungarian series of cultural events were resident programmes of the festival.
The Autumn Festival, the biggest festival embracing various branches of contemporary art, debuted to the Hungarian and international audience in various venues in Budapest with a new and at the same time young image in 2003.
In March 2003 Kovalik Balázs was commissioned by the Budapest Fesztiválközpont Kht. to create an artistic conception. After looking through the statistics and the programmes offered it became obvious that the festival had become dated and fell out of the circle of interest of its target group. Both the establishers and those running the festival set the following requirements to the new leadership:
-’Rejuvenation’ of the festival,
-To re-conquer the lost groups of audience
-To set up a series of events on the biggest scale possible within the given budget.
The Budapest Autumn Festival has to offer events that can not be shown to the Hungarian public using their own resources only. The import of international performances is just as important as the realisation of Hungarian creations and to create a way of introduction for artists without reputation or audience.
An objective of the Budapest Autumn Festival – keeping the Hungarian and the international reputation of the festival in mind – is to invite the most international performances of the largest scale possible into the festival programme, realised either in co-operation or using the festival’s own resources. Following this, guests of the festival in 2003 were: Cirkus Cirkör (S) | Trio Animæ (CH) | Fabien Tehericsen/Louis Sclavis (F) | Erste Wiener Gemüseorchester (A) | Anouk van Dijk (NL) | Contemporary Japaneses Evenings (J) | MK (I) | Peter Erskine (USA) | Erik Truffaz Quartet (CH) | Arditti Quartet (GB) | Teatrino Clandestino (I) | Cie Bud Blumenthal (B, Senegal, Ivory Coast) | Orchester der Panonischen Philharmonie (A) | Cie Emile Dubois/Jean Paul Gallotta (F) | Thalia Theater Hamburg/M. Thalheimer (D).
Due to the tight budget of the festival there was a great need to extend traditional PR and marketing activities. The organisers of the Budapest Autumn Festival wanted to reach the ’people on the street’ with the most effective tools and to create a festival feeling in Budapest by all means, as far as possible. To achieve this the Festival called the POINT:HERE:NOW competition of statues in public places (placing oversized question marks in the five busiest spots of Budapest) drawing attention to the public place statue exhibition of the 2004 Autumn Festival, organised in cooperation with ARC Kft.
In 2004 the Budapest Autumn Festival held 89 programmes at 37 venues. Following the tendencies of the last year, the festival’s marks got stronger. The duration of the festival was reduced from 17 to 10 days. The reason for doing so was to make a more concentrated programme, to achieve the concept of ’at least one ensemble of international rank every day’ and to use resources in a more rational way.
The main pillars of the programme this year too were performances by renowned international ensembles and artists. Guests of the festival were: Batsheva Dance Company – Ohad Naharin (ISR) | Klangforum Wien (A) | Peter Maxwell Davies (GB) | Olga Neuwirth (A) | Sylvia Nopper (D) | Üvöltő emberek – Shouting Men (FIN) | Tommi Grönlund, Petteri Nisunen (FIN) | Saburo Teshigavara (J) | Teatr Modejska (PL) | Reinbert de Leeuw, Barbara Hanningan (NL) | Ensemble ’88 (NL) | e-Xplo (USA, A) | Smart Laboratory (S) | Cie Philippe Saire (CH) | Asasello vonósnégyes (CH) | Stockholm Saxophone Quartet (S) | Sex Mob (USA) | Vienna Art Orchestra (A) | Howie B (GB) | Yann Marussich (CH).
The Budapest Autumn Festival places great emphasis on introducing young creative artists who have few possibilities, and on initiating and stimulating communication among different branches of the arts. The following programmes were organised within this frame: Plexi concerts in the Kultiplex | Open Doors Day in the Academy of Music | Swedish-Hungarian-text-music (meeting of poets and composers) in the Merlin Theatre | Premiere of new pieces by Gyergye Krisztián and Ágens | New play by Pintér Béla and Company | Triginta Percussion Group (directed by Szalai Péter) | Concert by students of the percussion department and Tömösközi László | Exhibitions throughout the city (Árkossy, Nyári, Jeleniczki)
It is a tradition that there are also a number of smaller festivals within the festival, as well as programmes comprising a series of events running for several days, sometimes even for the whole festival: Design 7 | POINT:HERE:NOW sculpture competition | Percussion Festival | e-Xplo | Magazine and Film Festival | Svédületes! Swedish-Hungarian rendezvous | Programmes of the Dutch season.
Following the one and the half decade long traditions, the 2005 Budapest Autumn Festival tried to continue the process that started in 2003. The organisers tried to shape the programme concept continuously, to strengthen the new international line of the festival, to involve new audience groups, to make representatives of different diverging branches of art come closer, to „go out to the streets” and address the residents of Budapest, to appear at new venues in addition to the existing ones (Ferenciek tere underground station at midnight, BAF Info Pavilion), and last but not least they tried to „switch the festival” into the streams of the European cultural circulation, into its mainstream, playing an important role in the reputation of Budapest and Hungary as well.
This year, the 10-day festival was „fully booked” in many ways: On average, there were performances by at least two internationally recognized ensembles every day; most of the cultural venues of Budapest were parts of the festival and the attendance of the programmes broke all records.
We followed the tradition of hosting a number of smaller festival-like events and events lasting through the festival like Design 7, the EDIT2005 International Dance Film Festival, POINT:HERE:NOW sculpture competition, the OFF series of events.
It is a gratifying tendency that European ensembles and ensembles of international rank would like to participate at the Budapest festivals. Due to that, the stars of the 2005 series of event of 10 days topped every Autumn Festival before: Ensemble Ictus [B] | Ensemble Modern [D] | Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker [B] | Courtney Pine [GB] | Kimmo Pohjonen [FIN] | Volksbühne - Frank Castorf [D] | Wroclawski Teatr - Krysztof Warlikowski [PL] | Tallini Chamber Ensemble – Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir- Tonu Kaljuste [EST] | Metzger - Zimmermann - de Perrot [CH] | Yasmeen Godder [ISR] | Diotima String Quartette [F] | Rainforest 21 Group [GB | IND | USA] | Ici-Méme [F] | Vincent Le Quang [F].
The festival believes that introducing the progressive segment of Hungarian cultural life is of major importance, paying tribute to the masters and providing space for the new generation as well. The „Artists of the future – artist for the future” programme brought to life by the National Cultural Fund offered performance opportunities to many young artists: Artus - Goda Gábor Ensemble | Accord String Quatette | Victoria Chamber Choir | Fassang László | Klenyán Csaba | Csalog Gábor | Rozmány Lajos | Dajka Theatre | Babits Antal and theFővárosi Mozgó-Művek Ensemble | Horváth Balázs | Ewald Brass Quintet | Somogyi String Quartette | Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir | Lantos Zoltán | Plastic Septet | 9:30 Collective |