Regina Frank (part two): To Find an Island in Ourselves


To find the first part of the interview, please click on the photo below

Hermes’ Mistress  1996 Spiral Wacoal Art Center, Tokyo Hermes’ Mistress bridges technology and traditional handwork. In the middle of a huge, expansive red dress, Frank sat with a portable computer, embroidering a spiraling path of letter beads that detailed information collected from the Internet.  (1994–2007: Travelled to: Exit Art,New York / Kunsthalle, Berlin / MOCA, Los Angeles / Bronx Museum, New York / Reina Sofia, Madrid / Frauenmuseum, Bonn / IAS, London / Kampnagel, Hamburg, UNESCO, Paris, Fondapol Paris, Chienku University Taiwan)

    For the version in Serbian, please clicki HERE

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L’Adieu – Pearls Before Gods
(1993, window of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York)
In this performance at the window of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York Frank worked daily, sewing pearls onto a white silk gown, and revealed the relationship of women’s labor to global pay scales.
Her wage was calculated each day at the rate of a different country, and she used the money for symbolic purchases of flowers and bread, as food for the soul and body. Time and money are valued differently depending on who is spending the time and who is spending the money.

 You lived in one window of the new Museum of Contemporary Art in New York for 28 days in 1993, sewing pearls onto a white silk gown by hand. There was a monitor showing the dollar amount you might earn per day in different countries of the world. And it was a very different amount somewhere decent (for example in Norway,) and somewhere really under valuated. Time and money has a different value in different societies, and the nature of women’s labor is still a question that has no answers?

Labor in general, in fact life in general. We live in a time where we have to make laws to guarantee access to water! My mother told me a story when I was little. A man was walking in the desert and he was hungry and thirsty. He found a bag and rushed to it… he ripped it open with his last strength, saw the content, and in complete despair he sank his hands into the ground, weeping, “oh it is only pearls.” This is the reason for the title: “L’Adieu – Pearls before Gods.” It is my hope that we come to our senses before we have to realize that we cannot eat our money. L’Adieu was such a transforming experience and it was so much appreciated by people. Many people didn’t realize that the performer and the artist are one (The Artist is Present), some asked “who is the model.” It wasn’t common in those days that the person who creates the piece is also the performer. Joseph Beuys and Marina Abramovic did that, a few other inspiring artists like Linda Montana, Tehching Hsieh, and later Janine Antony stayed for extended periods of time, but it was according to what I knew, much more rare and to this day it is seldom, when you look at performance art as a whole. I remember how disappointed I was when I realized it was not Ann Hamilton in her installations, though I continued to love her work.

L'Adieu - Pearls Before Gods, Monitor, 1993, window of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York A monitor showed her working when she was not there. During her work hours it was a live feed.

L’Adieu – Pearls Before Gods, Monitor, 1993, window of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
A monitor showed her working when she was not there. During her work hours it was a live feed.

During my performance at the window in the NewMuseum I was most touched by a group of women who worked around the corner in a sweatshop. They came up to me and thanked for my performance and for thinking of them and their situation. They could hardly speak English, but one woman translated from Chinese. Individually they had to sneak out to see me in the window, since they worked much longer hours then me (I worked only 8 hours/per day in the window). We had a long conversation about their lives, and we hugged in the end. Many years later I did a performance HUG in Taiwan that brought back that intense memory of those Chinese seamstresses. The beggar came to me thanking me: it had been his best business in years (and for years to come, as he told me each time I crossed him again). Laura Kurgan incorporated me in her piece and thus my salaries, that were average salaries of a textile worker around the world, where published in the Dow Jones Stock market. Brokers who passed by couldn’t believe I would only get the published amount 17.10 down to 20 cents. “It would be better to have your salaries rising. Somehow most of us cannot see a curve falling without getting nervous.” The museum guard Kimball explained the piece with so much patience and warmth. The whole performance was an excellent vehicle for communication.

Glass Pearls Game

Glass Bead Game
(1996 Summer Olympic Games, Atlanta)
For this interactive performance installation Frank wove a “Magic Mantle” (Kimono) from her favorite books and quotes. Visitors could contribute to the installation via Internet and create virtual beads from texts. A Game with no winner and no loser — to be present regardless of space or time. The piece traveled also to Arco Electronico, Madrid, Serpentine Gallery, London and Kampnagel, Hamburg)

I researched some NGO’s to determine who would get the proceeds from the auction at Christies. Robert Shiffler bought the piece and 50% went to the Museum, who I saw as my employer and the other 50% went as a donation to the Chinese Staff and Worker’s association paid directly by Robert Shiffler. Images of the performance and content where published in Cosmopolitain, Vogue, Parade Magazine, Harper’s, Rethinking Marxism and many more. The piece was able to raise a lot of awareness for labor division and the problems in many labor intense industries such as the textile industry.

Glass Bead Game  From Text to Textile. Frank wove this fabric from her favorite books. She twisted her favorite lines until they became thread.

Glass Bead Game
From Text to Textile. Frank wove this fabric from her favorite books. She twisted her favorite lines until they became thread.

The feminine symbol of the dress is also always very present in your performances. What is a dress to you, is it the island of freedom?

My most recent performance is called ILand. The dress is a space. It is a home, it is an address. When I dress I am still naked underneath, but the dress helps me to slip into a role, sort of like the priest or a footballer, to become something else. With many of my dresses it is impossible to move, therefore I am confined to sitting still. This restriction helps me to focus. In a way I fall through the center of my dresses into a deep space and most of the time I dwell there. Because the ego slips right through it feels effortless and light, even though some weigh 30kg or more.

Do we know how to find an island in ourselves?

When we find that knowing that is grace. That knowing is permanent. You have landed to travel.

For some of your projects you have found the inspiration in some paintings, in the Dreamweaving project we could read that your father influenced to your acceptance of some paintings, by giving you postcards or books. As a child you were amazed with Leonardo da Vinci and one book you had of his works. What is a DaVinci code to you?

iLand, Regina Frank, Venice Biennale, 2011

iLAND public peformance 99 min, Infr’action Venezia during the Preview of the Venice Biennale, Italy,
The landscape on Frank’s island-dress is inspired by satellite images from catastrophic and balanced areas. Frank walked from via Garibaldi to Giardini

It is a code to decode the inner truth. In truth you are al(l)one. It is something that this ingenious artist discovered and a few others before and after. It is dissolving the cross (our crucifixion) of space and time. Art can help with that transcendence if you don’t get attached to it.

And Vermeer? Do you find yourself in Vermeer’s Lace Maker?

There are some paintings that just make me sit and cry. They’re tears that are neither from pain nor joy, and both. Vermeer’s paintings are among them. There is a Monet at the Art Institute in Chicago that gets me every time I see it. I have my secret rendevouz with some paintings. Like for some people it is a Buddha Statue or a Pattern or the large arch of a building, for me those paintings are tele-transporters. They are doors to another world or out of this world. They are reminders and I just disappear and come out at the other side of the world. To really see such a painting is really lucky. Most people don’t see paintings anymore, they just look at it and they don’t even know what they are seeing.

iLand, Regina Frank, 2011, Venice

iLAND Poster, 2011. MapArt exhibition by Artist’s Museum, during the Venice Biennale, Italy

What are you working on lately? Solar dresses, solar trees?

My solar trees will be built when the time is right. At the moment I’m traveling with ILand. I land with ILand, I come home. Home is within me. I travelled to Chicago, Munich, Kassel and Venice with it, and will travel to Finland, China, France, Canada, and probably Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia with it in the next two years.

I am also working for my beautiful daughter. She is the best that was ever created through me. Her being is my biggest gift and the hours I spend with her playing, learning, building, eating and sleeping are sacred. Children are our present, constant reminders to be in the present, that is their greatest gift.

Could a project be developed that makes better use of solar energy?

Nowadays there are SMD solar cells, which are essentially cells that have a lens on top, so they bundle the light and are more efficient. I think there is great potential in people who invent new things daily. A lot of it hasn’t reached the market yet.

You lecture very intensively, throughout the world, from NYC to Taiwan. What do you teach your students?

Whatever they are ready to hear and it’s impossible to express in words, but essentially first

I try to give them tools:

Breathing, use their bodies more efficiently, overcoming stage fright and trembling. Helping them to find their own expression and their own issues and to put them into images, movements.

Efficient use of technology, I teach a quick method on how to make a good video of your own performance with a friend’s help even with a phone, or if available a camera, and how to edit it. I try to make them aware of perspectives, use of space, patterns of movement in space, and to develop a strong presence and an awareness of what they’re saying without wanting to say it…

I teach some fundraising skills, to transform their ideas into reality. I help them to find the right material for this and with it make them aware of materials. I tell them about my own material philosophy and why I chose a material. Silk as a carrier for development and transformation for isolation (cocooning) and so forth. I always ask why. Why clay, stone, bronze, silk, plaster, whatever, and why not?

I help them to fine-tune their concept, to investigate their own work, to make an effort and effect equation: and to put their work into a bigger context, to get to know great artists, young and old, from East and West, famous and completely unknown ones. New trends and old ties, I help them to become aware of places to show their work or curators who might be interested in it.

I also teach a few simple techniques to help the body with natural medicine, acupuncture and acupressure points. I make them aware of neuro-psychology and MindSight (Daniel Siegel). I help them understand how they work and why.

iLand, Venice, 2011

iLand, Venice, 2011

And when the time is right:

there is no teacher and no student.

Cut the crap.

Look inside in order to really see. Everything comes from there, this is your source. It is infinite.

Don’t limit yourself to that (which you think you are.)

Think outside of the box! Stop Thinking.

And finally, if they are interested, some excursions into quantum and particle physics and the large Hadron Collider. Not only is the universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think (Heissenberg).

And, for the end, you live in a village in Portugal and as well as in Germany. Is that a sort of message to others not to live far away from nature, to be closer to the planet and to be conscious of it?

Portugal is a great country. The Nature is stunningly beautiful and continues to amaze me. The Portuguese love children and are a very kind, natural people. Women can live and be loved without make up, hair dye or plastic surgery. People here are allowed to look like human beings and time can unfold in the wrinkles of their memories. The food is natural, healthy and fresh without much need for bio-labeling. The people are patient and peaceful. Almost everyone speaks a second language or at least tries to understand you no matter if you speak Spanish, Italian or French. People here have a great silence. They could be a bit more self-confident, but then again the higher the self-consciousness, the lower the self-confidence. This was the last refuge of the Templars, there was little to no witch-hunting here and the energy for a simple life feels more supportive.

A-Dress  (1995–99: Winnipeg Art Gallery, Canada / Arco Electronico, Madrid / Kunsthaus, Hamburg / Clifford Smith Gallery, Boston / Kampnagel Hamburg) For 97 days Regina Frank wrote and sent by e-mail letters to her own ad-dress. Those letters were printed and affixed inside of the dress corresponding to each ink-dyed leaf on the outside. What if internet information was wilting....

(1995–99: Winnipeg Art Gallery, Canada / Arco Electronico, Madrid / Kunsthaus, Hamburg / Clifford Smith Gallery, Boston / Kampnagel Hamburg)
For 97 days Regina Frank wrote and sent by e-mail letters to her own ad-dress. Those letters were printed and affixed inside of the dress corresponding to each ink-dyed leaf on the outside. What if internet information was wilting….

Germany is where I still disappear completely from public life, were I tend to my beautiful loving 88-year old mother, caressing her, pampering her. Where I go to be a mother to my daughter and to be a daughter to my mother. It is where I can take long walks without seeing anyone. I can go through boxes and boxes of my older work, all still there from a time when my mother would lovingly package my past on paper. It is my roots, where I can research my childhood through drawings, paintings and sculptures without the distraction of television or Internet. It is where my old friends are, who have known me for 40 years and more. I also love Germany and the Germans deeply, painting, writing, creating there and disappearing from both worlds. Sometimes I get a flat rate for a week and then I spend hours in meetings and on the cellphone. That is also fun. To remind people that I still exist… in the age of communication.

Sometimes I miss the US. I feel really a bit homesick. All that good Art, Technology and new ideas in one spot! But its also nice to go there. Then you take all the good sides from it and have it in all in a supersize overdose. (laughs) Some really close friends live there and I can stand to be away from them only because I know that time and space is just an illusion.

Thank you for these really good questions.

Thank you, Regina.

Suzana Spasic



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