1.000 Years of Hungary Celebration

Danube Budapest, August 20th 2000


BUDAPEST – THE MILLENNIUM EVENT
1000 YEARS OF HUNGARY, AUGUST 20TH 2000
MUSIC BY ROBERT ERDESZ
Art Director, Light & Pyro Design Gert Hof
Event Management & Production Asteris Koutoulas
Produced by Happy End Kft., Art in Heaven GmbH & Asteris Koutoulas for the Government of Hungary
Executive Producer Tim Dowdall
Programming & Operator Stephan Aue
Technical Direction & Local Support Multimedia (Europe) Ltd.
Light Equipment Procon MultiMedia AG
Balloons Helicon GmbH Berlin
Pyro & Fireworks Boom Boom Productions, California


Gert was immediately fascinated by Budapest, the Danube and the Parliament. In early 2000 we flew to Hungary for initial discussions and I noticed how, from day one, he began to "see" images. I was woken by his call at 2am and soon I was sitting in his hotel room, looking down onto the Chain Bridge and listening to his description of the future event. In moments like these Gert is lost in another world, until his "longing for prison" manifests itself again, this dark strife for a soothing yet painful loneliness. It is in moments like these that I think of something Theodorakis once said: "Somehow, we were freer in prison than we are now in our bourgeois everyday lives". But such moods - hidden, invisible - never alter Gert's approach, characterised by strict discipline and a resolute rejection of compromise. Even if it seems to be a contradiction in terms: Gert Hof is a hermit who teaches the "art of warfare".
It turned out to be a long and winding road until the contract was finally signed with the Hungarian government. Diplomatic snares wherever we turned. The conflicts of interest overwhelming. We, the "foreigners", were constantly confronted with distrust, envy and scepticism. For on the 20th of August 2000 Hungary not only celebrated the turn of the millennium but also 1000 years since the inauguration of their first ever king - a millennium show twice over, in a way. Gert saw the event as a sign for Hungary's cultural entry into the European Union, symbolised by a Chain Bridge shrouded in blue neon light - a striking image that went all around the world.

© Asteris Kutulas, 2003


1,000-Year Anniversary of Hungary, Budapest
Client: Government of Hungary
Location: Danube River, Parliament, Historic Chain Bridge
Music by Robert Erdesz
Live Audience: 2.1 million spectators
Media Coverage: 80 million TV viewers

The Hungarian government appointed the director Gert Hof to produce a multimedia mega-show in Budapest, for the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of Hungary, in August 2000. The aim of the show was to create an event that would symbolize Hungary's strong future as a European country. Gert Hof created for this occasion the world's biggest light installation on the banks of the Danube, by using special lighting and neon equipment, fireworks and balloons. The focal point of the show was the Hungarian Parliament and the bridges of the Danube illuminated by thousands of lights. More than two million people watched this spectacular event live.


Gert Hof is the only artist who has produced four Millennium Events (Berlin - Victory Column, Athens - Acropolis, Budapest - Parliament, Beijing - China Millennium Monument), and has thus been justly described as "one of the most sought-after light and pyro architects in the world" (ARD, Tagesthemen). After the simultaneous events on the night of the Millennium, in Berlin and Athens, where Gert Hof became the first artist in the history of modern Greece, to be permitted to stage an event on and around the Acropolis, he was approached by the Hungarian Government, to produce a multi-media mega-show in the city of Budapest, on the occasion of Hungary's one thousandth anniversary. Thus there came about a monumental creation consisting of light, pyro and balloons by and on the Danube, between the Margaret and Chain bridges, and with the neo- classical parliament building as its focal point.

Finally, Gert Hof was commissioned by the Chinese Government to create an unprecedented spectacle on December 31st 2000 to celebrate Asia's Millennium at the China Millennium Monument in Beijing. In this case, it was the first time in the history of modern China that a foreigner had been entrusted with the artistic direction of a state event. The Chinese were particularly impressed by the skillful inclusion of traditional local stylistic elements. This mega-event in Beijing was broadcast by 180 TV stations worldwide. It is estimated that 1.2 billion television viewers in China watched the show, and a further 500 million saw worldwide excerpts from and reports about this mega-event.


Trotz der drei Events (Berlin, Athen, Ferropolis) des Jahres 2000, die wir in den Monaten zuvor realisiert hatten, war für uns die Donau zwischen Buda und Pest mit dem Ungarischen Parlament im Mittelpunkt, links und rechts davon die Ketten- und die Margaretenbrücke, ein ganz besonderes Ereignis. Wir hatten es nicht nur mit einem architektonischen Bauwerk zu tun, sondern auch mit einer großartigen Stadt-Landschaft, einem Fluss, der durch sein Reflektionsvermögen und seine dunkle Lebendigkeit unserer Veranstaltung eine zusätzliche Dimension verlieh. Gert Hof war sofort von der Idee und der Location fasziniert.

Wir flogen Anfang 2000 zu ersten Gesprächen nach Budapest, und ich merkte, wie Gert noch am ersten Tag anfing, Bilder zu „sehen". Sein Anruf weckte mich gegen zwei Uhr morgens. Bald saß ich bei ihm im Hotelzimmer, schaute auf die Kettenbrücke und hörte ihm zu, wie er mir den zukünftigen Event beschrieb. Gert ist in solchen Augenblicken wie ein Kind, das sich freuen und nehmen kann, bevor sich wieder seine „Sehnsucht nach dem Gefängnis" offenbart, dieses dunkle Streben nach einer tröstenden, ruhigen und zugleich schmerzlichen Einsamkeit. Ich musste in solchen Momenten immer an den Satz von Theodorakis denken: „Im Gefängnis waren wir irgendwie freier als jetzt in unserem bürgerlichen Alltagsleben".

Es war dann noch ein langer und zäher Weg bis zum Vertragsabschluss. Wieder machten wir die Erfahrung, wie schwierig es ist, für eine Regierung solch eine Veranstaltung zu machen. Die diplomatischen Fallstricke sind vielfältig. Die Interessenkonflikte übermächtig. Man ist ständig konfrontiert mit Misstrauen, Neid und Skepsis gegenüber den „Fremden", die wir ja waren. Denn die Ungarn feierten am 20. August nicht nur die Jahrtausendwende, sondern auf den Tag genau auch die 1.000 Jahre seit der Krönung ihres ersten Königs, eine doppelte Millennium-Feier also. Gert begriff unseren Event als einen kulturellen Akt Ungarns auf dem Weg nach Europa, was er durch das Einhüllen der Margaretenbrücke in blaues Neonlicht versinnbildlichte, ein Bild, das um die Welt ging.

© Asteris Kutulas, 2003