5 Questions: Michael Namkung

October 14, 2011  |  By
Filed under: Conversations

[Five questions to SFMOMA artists, staff, or guests.  Michael Namkung is a San Francisco artist who uses movement to create his work. He’ll be at the museum on Sunday for Yerba Buena Family Day, during which he will perform one of his Wall Sit drawings and families will be able to take part in drawing gym activities. Free!]

Michael Namkung and Iris in the SFMOMA offices

If you weren’t an artist, what would your gig be?

That’s a tough one. I used to be a middle school teacher. I’ve just become certified as a personal trainer, although that’s part of my artwork. It’s a difficult what-if to imagine because I can’t see myself becoming preoccupied with anything else now. But we’re just fantasizing, right? When I was a kid I wanted to be a garbageman, a mailman, a cartoonist, and a professional soccer or basketball player. I’m sure one of those would have worked out.

If you could spend an afternoon with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

My Uncle Mike, who died 10 years ago. He gave me my first real job, and we did triathlons and other fun races together when I was young — my favorite was when we had to carry a canoe through the woods together for one of the legs of a pentathlon. He’s visited me in my dreams a couple of times, but those encounters are always so short. I would love to spend a whole afternoon with him.

What would I find in your refrigerator right now?

butter
mini wasabi and ginger packets
half a jar of pickle juice
horseradish
mango chutney
yellow mustard
pesto
aioli garlic mustard sauce
real mayo
more yellow mustard
sriracha
white vinegar
wasabi in tube
Annie Chun’s Korean Sweet & Spicy Sauce
red curry paste
another tube of wasabi
veggie bouillon
hot and sweet mustard
unidentified sauce packet
2-buck chuck
ketchup
hoisin sauce
more ketchup
soy dressing
more real mayo
sweet chili sauce
dijon mustard
fish sauce
yakisoba sauce
balsamic vinaigrette
red wine vinegar
Worcestershire sauce
more balsamic vinaigrette
miso paste
soy milk
leftover Thai take-out
half and half
jalapeno chutney
yogurt
chocolate soy milk
half a tomato
1 and 1/2 asian pear
leftover pasta
sandwich pickles
green curry paste
kimchi
2 mini cans of Coke
grade B maple syrup
apple butter
bottle of sake
2 slices of bread
Hammer’s homemade jam
pickled ginger
baking soda
Rockstar energy drink
one pickle
cilantro
kaffir limes
kaffir lime leaves
garlic
sourdough start
basil
unidentified canning jar marked “special”
mini yogurt
Amy’s burrito
2 more slices of bread
1/2 loaf of bread
pesto
cooked lentils
can of whip cream
2 dozen eggs
3 corn tortillas
1 and 1/2 packages turkey lunch meat
sausage
1 and 1/2 packages of bacon
goat cheese
pomegranate seeds
2 more yogurts
shiso
3 bottles of beer, 1 can
beef broth
1/2 jar pasta sauce
carrots
1 chunk of sweet potato
cut watermelon
romaine lettuce
kale
cucumbers
mint
snow peas
1/2 small red onion
ugly shiitake mushrooms
3 scallions


What’s your favorite tool?

Can I name more than one? My pocket knife — I use it for so many things: opening packages, sharpening pencils, cutting paper, carving pumpkins, getting stopped in airport security lines… Another one is a pocket-sized tape measure that was in my Uncle Mike’s tool box that I now have — it’s just a couple inches wide. It only measures up to 6 feet; the one screw that holds it together comes loose often; and the tension in the spring isn’t consistent, so it doesn’t recoil very easily, but I do find myself frequently needing to measure things and I like the way it feels in my hand. And my notebook, which also fits in my pocket. And a pen, with a clip, so that I can clip it to a pocket and pull it out quickly. Are pockets a tool? They should be.

What should I ask you?

You should ask me to do an impression of my six-month-old daughter, Iris. I’m learning so many new sounds and facial expressions from her. She communicates so much with so little, and she listens and observes so intently. She’s my role model. I want to listen and observe and be as much in the moment as she is. And it’s fun to make funny faces and silly noises.


Learn more about Michael’s art and projects here. Yerba Buena Family Day is this Sunday, October 16. In addition to Michael’s activities at SFMOMA, there will be free family activities at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora, and the Children’s Creativity Museum, plus music all day in Yerba Buena Gardens.

1 Comment

  1. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    What a treat to read about a father who loves his baby!

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