From Tourist Destination to Tabernacle

From Tourist Destination to Tabernacle

Regina Frank
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-3369-0.ch023
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


The author describes her personal experience and insights on Portugal as a German artist who has lived and worked worldwide. She observes the changes from her first arrival during the European Football Championship in 2004, the experience of the WebSummit and various exhibitions in Portuguese Museums, up to the COVID-19 confinement and reopening in 2022. She tells the story of 18 years of development of the country, its tourism and economy, the spiritual path, and also the “zen exercises” the community has and had to offer: getting lost in Lisbon, finding faith in Fatima, sanctuaries in Santarem, and tabernacles in Tomar, as Portugal became her literal port of the grail (Port-u-gal). From children to education, poetry, prose, science, food, art, and religion, she paints a picture from the view of a foreigner mingling with the Portuguese and the ex-pat community. Isolated in the countryside during COVID-19, she connected online with Portuguese artists and created new alliances.
Chapter Preview


Exhibiting and performing mainly in the capitals of the USA, Asia, and Europe, Regina Frank always carried with her Fernando Pessoa's (1982) Book of Disquiet. She had neither spoken a word of Portuguese, nor had she been to Portugal. After her artist in residencies in Japan and Taiwan, the Gulbenkian Foundation funded her new project in Portugal called Dreamweaving. (see Figure 8)

After numerous museum exhibitions, traveling only for professional reasons, she landed in Portugal for her first holiday in twenty years. Portugal then became her favorite destination - a place where she found refuge between projects enjoying the nature, the culture, and the food it had to offer. Watching the country grow, she observed changes in all areas: from arts to soccer to zen practice. Between 2004 and 2007, as a tourist, she got lost in Lisbon — later, as a resident, she watched Lisbon gentrification.

Torn between seeing a town overwhelmed by tourism, its unique culture partially destroyed, and appreciating the new opportunities for artists, she developed strategies to find the positive in all change. In Portugal, she connected with an international crowd during the WebSummit, sat with thousands of Portuguese people at the Pavilhão do Conhecimento just 56 days before the lockdown with her installation iLAND. Then COVID19 seemed to change everything. Watching the Urban desire for culture crumble, she found a stronger calling for the virtual and viral in the arts and environmental sciences.

She took time for magical meetings every year in the mountains of Monchique, celebrating ancient Vedic ceremonies. In 2017, among thousands of people at the 100 Years of Fatima celebration, she reconnected to her Catholic cool. Long durational performances at MAAT coincided with a Festival of Light organized by the Jesuit community, deepened her faith. Walking the Ways of St James, along the shore on her path to Porto, tracing the Templars in Tomar, and savoring the sacred week in Braga, she connected to the spiritual tourism of this Port-o-Gral, (Harbor of the Grail).

During the COVID19 confinement, she celebrated solitude, living in the Portuguese countryside, breathing deeply near the churches of Santarém and the Tagus River. While her daughter zoomed and zapped, broadening her horizon online, Regina Frank returned to her roots in a routine of writing, painting, sculpting, filming, editing, cooking, and working with plants. She used the opportunity to build a new body of work based on Silenced Science and her Silenced Sides, later shown at the Museum of Natural History and Science and the CPS (Centro Português de Seriegrafia). With a group of professional artists, she cofounded SOS Arte PT, spending many hours in online conferences. Here she made more meaningful friendships during the COVID than at the superficial openings she previously tended to avoid anyway. She created several virtual exhibitions paired with poetry, pearls, text, and textile.

In the text, she describes the zen exercises the Portuguese culture offers: situations in traffic, public offices, and supermarkets, and her solution and salvation. She watched in awe as conformity became a code for coexistence and tolerance as a key to transformation, admiring the Portuguese organization of the vaccination.

This text features Regina’s transformation of seeing Portugal from the perspective of a frequently-visited tourist destination to eventually becoming her home and a tabernacle and vessel for ritual structure and spiritual connection - a sanctuary.

In the text she describes the “zen exercises” that the Portuguese culture has to offer: situations in traffic to public offices and supermarkets, and her solution and salvation. She watched in awe as conformity became code for coexistence and tolerance as a key to transformation, admiring the Portuguese organization of the vaccination.

This text features Regina’s transformation of seeing Portugal from the perspective of a frequently-visited tourist destination, to eventually becoming her home and a tabernacle and vessel for ritual structure and spiritual connection, a sanctuary.

Key Terms in this Chapter

PT: It was an association created during the first lockdown to help artists by fighting for artists rights, meeting with political parties, creating exhibitions, awards, a magazine, a podcast, fundraising, studios, and microcredit.

Rituals: Are regulated, often stereotyped procedures that serve the communication of people with each other and often the communication with spirits and divine forces. Every culture has their specific rituals. There are ancient rituals, vedic, shamanistic rituals, magic rites, and new rituals, such as challenges that are performed in front of a camera and posted on social media to connect to peers.

Artists in Pandemic: Often reoriented their creative practice to cope with the lockdown. Many augmented their social media presence and participated in exhibitions on-line. Some invested in NFTs, performed from their home on camera, or created digital artworks.

Performance Art: Is an artwork or exhibition created through actions executed by the artist or other participants. It may be witnessed live or through documentation, spontaneously developed or written, and is traditionally presented to a public in a fine art context.

Slow-Food/Organic Food: It means a reorientation towards conscious eating with economically and ecologically justifiable food contents. The healthy nutrition of the people comes back to the foreground, which is a sensual experience of pleasure.

Artist Is Present/The Heart Is Present: It was Regina Frank’s Motto from 1989 until 2011. When Marina Abramoviç adapted this title for her exhibition at MOMA Regina Frank took this as an invitation for change and created The HeArt is Present. This motto or title refers to the omnipresence of the true Artist within all of us. The power of divine creation through the body being solely a tool, vessel, or receiver. The Artist or HeArt is impersonal and does not refer to a specific body-mind organism but humankind as a whole, experiencing true inspiration and guidance through the Artist´s presence.

Spiritual Tourism: Is an act of traveling to visit spiritual places such as (1) mosques, churches, and temples and (2) natural environments such as forests, rivers, oceans, lake, spiritual gardens, wildlife parks for birds and animals, botanical gardens, or (3) teachers, priests, monasteries, ashrams, retreat centers.

Zen Exercises: Are challenges, usually created by circumstances or people. The exercise is to stay with a zen (calm, peaceful) mind and not to take it personally but instead let go and act with loving kindness, taking this as a reminder to be in this world but not from this world, as each situation is an opportunity to learn, give and forgive.

MAAT, Lisbon: Is the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, an international institution dedicated to fostering critical discourse and creative practice that inspire new understandings of the historical present and an empowering engagement with the common future. The MAAT has shown numerous well-known artists and has commissioned many outstanding artworks that were highly technological, inventive, and visionary.

Cultural Tourism: Is a type of tourism activity in which the visitor's essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume the tangible and intangible cultural attractions/products in a tourism destination.

Internet Art: Is a form of new media art distributed via the Internet. This form of art circumvents the traditional dominance of the physical gallery and museum system. In many cases, the viewer is drawn into some kind of interaction with the work of art.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: