The Lunch Break Times

Artist Sharon Lockhart reflects on the presence of the individual in the context of industrial labor through film, photography, and printed matter. For Lunch Break (2008), she spent a year at a naval shipbuilding plant in Maine, and the exhibition — now on view — examines the workers’ activities during their time off from production. SFMOMA is also distributing Lockhart’s newspaper, The Lunch Break Times, which relates stories about labor and lunch breaks. Every Wednesday, at NOON, we’re posting one of the articles here.………………………….


Laura Owens
When I worked at the Huron County Landfill in Ohio, my job was to weigh trucks in and out, keep a ledger for accounts receivable, and regulate and advise locals on the laws of dumping their trash. In my one and only government job, expectations of me were clean and clear, with an emphasis on stretching the tasks to fill the workday. Breaks were mandatory and extensive: a 9:15 a.m. break, an hour lunch break, and an afternoon break. In mirror fashion to my repetitive and routine job, I ate the same lunch every day: a Lean Cuisine beef teriyaki and rice frozen dinner that I would pop in the microwave on top of the fridge at work. Lean Cuisine is a division of Stouffer’s, the Ohio-based frozen food company that had big ideas in the 1980s. As a teenager, I had gone through several periods of only eating one food at a time — a three-month stint on raisin Rice Krispies treats comes to mind — so this self-imposed restriction wasn’t new. But it nicely completed a routine that was perfectly symmetrical day after day.

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2011

We ate in the mechanics’ room behind the shack where I weighed the trucks. The lead mechanic, the longest-serving government employee on-site and father to one of the other girls in the office, liked to freak me out by opening his coveted jar of pickled pigs feet and popping one in his mouth. Everyone but me seemed to come from a farm, so they were humored watching my face fill with horror.

Unlike any retail or service job I have had since, working at the landfill had a warm and familial atmosphere. We were there to represent the rules, do our jobs well, and conform to a slow pace so as to stretch the work out to the end of the day. I took care not to write too quickly and had the best penmanship of my life.

Sliding open the tiny office window above my desk, I would tell customers whose pickup trucks sat on the scales that they were not in compliance with the law and that I would call the state highway patrol to give them a ticket if they didn’t leave and come back with a tarp on their load.

I watched as people unloaded their trucks with bicycles and furniture, antique windows and doors, all in perfect condition. The Amish would ride up in buggies with their trash. We welcomed the same six guys who were the city trash collectors multiple times a day. A BFI driver we knew drove up with his whole hauler full of packages of Pepperidge Farm chocolate chip cookies straight from the factory. He opened the back of his load and we all took multiple packages while he relayed that they had too much salt. None of us could taste a difference. I was 17.

After many jobs working in retail and the service industry, where lunch was an escape to myself, and to thinking my own private thoughts, I am now alone with my thoughts the whole day. Working for myself in the studio, there is no limiting organization that dictates my hours. Lunch is not something to be savored, but an attempt to strategize what foods will give me the most energy and focus for the rest of the afternoon. It can be a place to rebel against my own tyrannical pressure to produce. More often it is an annoying distraction, something to conveniently forget about. At best, it is a time to regroup and come back to the studio with fresh eyes and ideas. Unlike the government job and my frozen meal that was so comforting and routine in its slow, methodical nature, my lunch break is now stressful, a debate every day of what to eat and how to avoid wasting time.


Laura Owens is an artist who lives in Los Angeles.

What Do You Think?

Snøhetta, SFMOMA Expansion Aerial Southeast Façade; image courtesy Snøhetta

This morning, SFMOMA unveiled new design details of the expanded building project. The expansion, as you likely know by now, is being designed by architectural firm Snøhetta in collaboration with SFMOMA, and this morning Craig Dykers, one of the principals of the firm, talked SFMOMA staff through a presentation of the new designs. There will be new education spaces, lots of light, and ground-level galleries and orientation spaces that will be free to the public. Craig will be presenting and discussing details of the new design for the first time in public tomorrow evening, in YBCA’s Novellus theater. You’ll also be able to watch his presentation LIVE online, HERE.

Have you got questions for the architects? Don’t miss Rooftop TV: The Future Museum, a special interactive webcast conversation with Craig and some fantastic guests, Friday morning, 11:00 a.m.

Groundbreaking for the expansion is scheduled for summer 2013, with completion of new digs projected for early 2016. Here’s the PRESS RELEASE. There’s more detailed info on our expansion page. And here’s a video!

Snøhetta, SFMOMA Expansion Night Aerial from Howard St.; image courtesy Snøhetta

Snøhetta, SFMOMA Expansion Howard St. entrance; image courtesy Snøhetta

Snøhetta, SFMOMA Expansion Art Court; image courtesy Snøhetta

Snøhetta, SFMOMA Expansion View from Yerba Buena; image courtesy Snøhetta

Thom Donovan on Matt Mullican

Matt Mullican, Untitled (Photo Bulletin Board), 1992; © Matt Mullican. Click image for larger view and better detail of the individual photographs.


Faced with the totally administered, a sort of mysticism becomes a last resort, a line of flight from countless mundane tyrannies of the contemporary soul. In Matt Mullican’s Bulletin Boards series, the existence of everyday objects — a lamp, a sewer grate, a telephone, the banister of a staircase — is rendered both generic and numinous. Photographs of interior spaces (windows, doorframes, hallways) redouble the mental experience of looking. There is no whole, just a gathering of images whose haphazard constellation marks the continuous accretion of an archive. The Open remains open. The drafting or deliberate leaving-unfinished becomes a work regarding how worlds begin, how our “thrownness” (Heidegger) is accomplished. Liberated by distraction, we pay for this distraction with our lives. I don’t know if I am subject or object of this work, what the POV of a bulletin board is. The photograph of a Pinocchio puppet (spiritual automaton) hails me/the viewer.

The corporate logo JCPenney signifies the arbitrary power of the name in a time of corporations, mass production, branding; the aura of its font, the curve of the letters — becoming artifactual. In a talk I saw Mullican give recently, he spoke of his persona under hypnosis (“That Person”), loving to draw the letters of the words Baby Love. Love of letters as letters, where an emotional identification with a world of things grasps us (human animals, consumers). The images of things before (or after) they have names become memento mori. Or reminders, as my wife likes to say, that we are “living corpses.” We form a fellowship with the dead. The artist’s fingers in the mouth of a corpse embody the burden of this fellowship. The photographs gathered and pinned here project a time in the future when we will seem even more strange to ourselves. Like a time capsule, hieroglyphs, artifacts — not just cosmology, but the future conditional tense of a speculative anthropology. The “self” or “I” or “That Person” or “Mullican” acting, at different points, as both the object and the subject of a cottage anthropological project.

The arbitrariness of the symbol = the arbitrariness of fashion, of design, of the built world = the arbitrariness of facts, of photographic light and perspective = the arbitrariness of “us,” of relation. The practice of the artist induces Bardo, death in life, transmigration of the “soul at work.” I am reminded of Charles Olson’s phrase at the end of The Maximus Poems, “My wife my car my color myself.” Insistent punctuation of the possessive pronoun “my.” Though perhaps in Mullican’s work, the totally subjective (the artist’s investigation of dreams, and memories, and fantasies; his creation of a complex symbolic logic, as well as an architecture for symbolization) becomes objective where the “person” is exteriorized by compulsive output. The Bulletin Boards represent the rudimentary arrangements of this output, its substrate. Theyact as both archive and processor, open draft and mental map, invoking the subject who must become object-like in order to experience (their own) life.

Thom Donovan is a writer, curator, editor, and archivist. He edits the weblog Wild Horses of Fire — now in its seventh year! — and co-edits ON Contemporary Practice, a print journal for critical writings and conversations. His book The Hole is forthcoming from Displaced Press.

Our One on One series features artists, writers, poets, curators, and others from around the country, responding to works in SFMOMA’s collection. You can follow it here.

Happy Thanksgiving

Robert Arneson, Smorgi-Bob, The Cook, 1971

The Lunch Break Times


Artist Sharon Lockhart reflects on the presence of the individual in the context of industrial labor through film, photography, and printed matter. For Lunch Break (2008), she spent a year at a naval shipbuilding plant in Maine, and the exhibition — now on view — examines the workers’ activities during their time off from production. SFMOMA is also distributing Lockhart’s newspaper, The Lunch Break Times, which relates stories about labor and lunch breaks. Every Wednesday, at NOON, we’re posting one of the articles here.………………………….



Andrea Nguyen

Forget the PB&J, the BLT, and even the panini. We submit that the banh mi, invented in Vietnam, is the world’s greatest sandwich. Wanting to learn more about banh mi, we went straight to the source: Andrea Nguyen. Andrea is a celebrated author and cooking teacher based in Northern California. A contributing editor to SAVEUR magazine, her work also appears in the Los Angeles Times. Her publications include Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors (Ten Speed Press, 2006); Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More (Ten Speed Press, 2010); and Asian Market Shopper (Chronicle Books, 2011). We’re eagerly anticipating the publication of her next book, Asian Tofu, in 2012, also published by Ten Speed Press. Andrea’s website, Viet World Kitchen, is an indispensable repository of information on Vietnamese cooking, as well as on the social significance of food in Vietnamese culture. Andrea generously shared her master banh mi and daikon and carrot pickle recipes with us. Thanks, Andrea!

Whenever I bite into a banh mi sandwich — whether it’s on a street in Vietnam, sidewalk of Little Saigon, or in my home kitchen — I am ingesting Vietnamese history and culture. The bread, condiments, and some of the meats are the legacy of French and Chinese colonialism. But in its entirety, the beloved banh mi is 100 percent Viet, full of self-determination, resourceful craftsmanship, and culinary magic. It often costs little but deserves a hefty sum for all the care involved.

Banh Mi Sandwich

Banh mi sandwich moments before being consumed by the photographer. Photo Luong (Mike) T. Ly.

For each sandwich:

1 petite baguette roll or a 7-inch section cut from a regular-length baguette, purchased or homemade

Mayonnaise, real (whole egg) or homemade mayonnaise

Maggi Seasoning sauce or soy sauce

Your choice of boldly-flavored meat or tofu, sliced and at room temperature

3 or 4 thin seeded cucumber strips, pickling or English variety preferred

2 or 3 cilantro sprigs, roughly chopped

3 or 4 thin jalapeño pepper slices

Everyday Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Chua) (recipe follows)

1. Slit the bread lengthwise, and then use your fingers or a bread knife to hollow out the insides, making a trough in both halves. Discard the insides or save for another use, such as breadcrumbs. If necessary, crisp up the bread in a toaster oven preheated to 325ºF, and then let it cool for a minute before proceeding.

2. Generously spread the inside with mayonnaise. Drizzle in some Maggi Seasoning sauce or soy sauce. Start from the bottom portion of bread to layer in the remaining ingredients. (As with all sandwiches, you’ll eventually develop an order for layering the filling so as to maximize the interaction between flavors and textures.) Close the sandwich, cut it in half crosswise for easy eating, and enjoy.

Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Chua)


Try this daikon and carrot pickle recipe once and then tweak the recipe to your liking. Variations include adding tangy-sweet-pungent pickled shallots (cu kieu) to the mixture, as well as making heavier on the carrot side than the daikon side. I prefer to keep a higher ratio (say 2:1) of daikon to carrot as I like the mild bite of daikon radish. I like a tangy-sweet flavor whereas you can alter the ratio of sugar to vinegar to make the brine sweeter, and hence affect the pickle’s flavor.

Makes about 3 cups

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks

1 pound daikons, each no larger than 2 inches in diameter, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar

1 cup lukewarm water

1. Place the carrot and daikons in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes, expelling the water from them. They will soften and liquid will pool at the bottom of the bowl. Stop kneading when you can bend a piece of daikon so that the ends touch but the daikon does not break. The vegetables should have lost about one-fourth of their volume. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water. Return the vegetables to the bowl if you plan to eat them soon, or transfer them to a 1-quart jar for longer storage.

2. To make the brine, in a bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the vinegar, and the water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the vegetables. The brine should cover the vegetables. Let the vegetables marinate in the brine for at least 1 hour before eating. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. Beyond that point, they get tired.


Andrea Nguyen is the acclaimed author of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, Asian Dumplings, Asian Tofu (forthcoming 2012), and the Asian Market Shopper iPhone app. Andrea’s work appears in the Los Angeles Times and SAVEUR, where she is also a contributing editor. She is a regular guest on food radio programs and has been an invited speaker at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium and Yale University. Andrea resides in the Bay Area and publishes

Marriage Equality – Status Update

Today from 1pm-5pm we’re streaming The Air We Breathe – Marriage Equality: Status Update, a series of public discussions looking at the state of the campaign for marriage equality. More information on the program is here. Please join us for discussion in the chat box below the video. I’ll be moderating comments there, and when possible will relay your questions to the panelists. If you’d like to chime in via Twitter, use the hashtag #TAWB. UPDATE: I’ll post all the video of the day’s discussions here on Monday.

5 Questions: Simon Fujiwara

Five questions to SFMOMA artists, staff, or guests. For this iteration I sat down with London-born, Berlin-based artist Simon Fujiwara. Tonight at 8 p.m. he performs The Boy Who Cried Wolf, in which he tracks his own identity and sexuality through three sites (the bar, the wedding, and the mirror). There is also a rotating stage.


Simon Fujiwara at SFMOMA with an egg on the set of The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Do you collect anything?

I collect a lot of things. Every winter I go to Mexico, and I generally arrive with nothing and send a container of objects and artifacts back to Europe. My studio basically looks like a prop shop; there’ll be anything from hands of saints taken from deconstructed churches to old safes. I collect a lot of fake books; anything from secret libraries containing spaces to put objects in, or books that are safes. I also collect eggs, all kinds of eggs, from stone eggs to Fabergé eggs to rubber eggs that bounce. There is no hierarchy in price or style, it just has to be egg-shaped. Anytime I see an egg I buy it. In general I collect fake food. Every city tends to have a handicraft relationship with fake food. Mexico is mostly papier-mâché hand-painted; in Japan they are always highly synthetic rubberized foods, often for window displays.

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

Generally the people whom I consider artistic or intellectual heroes are people that I don’t feel I want to meet. I may be wrong, and probably am, but I am afraid to jeopardize my personal relationship with their work by knowing them. George Bataille would be one person I would have liked to have seen physically, but I would have preferred it if he had been sitting at a table in a café where I could observe him, rather than actually having to sit down and have a conversation with him. We share the same birthday, as well as an egg fetish.

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

If I could separate the means and the end result, I’m sad to say I’d probably be in advertising. I have an ever-growing repulsion to advertising at every level, but particularly the way it has affected public space, that everything we touch, see, smell is branded and screaming some message at you. My own work is full of messages that don’t offer any kind of end product. I work with complicated narrative histories that begin with my interest in a particular notion or moment in time, and expand into larger stories that I perform or create settings for. In architecture school students are taught a similar language to advertising. Even with fictive architectural proposals, students are encouraged to “sell” the building or to think about clients. It was in architecture school that I began to be interested in this language of presentation, a language that is constantly trying to promote something without quite knowing why. In architecture there is no such thing as an object for the sake of it without having a promotional attitude behind it. I find it interesting in the sense that props and objects in everyday life become part of a grander narrative that could be about the global economy, something politically motivated or simply something to satisfy a client. I could see the worst part of myself, the evil twin version of myself, in architecture PR.

Have you ever run out of money?

Yes, on Friday I bought a fur coat and ran out of money.

What’s your favorite tool?

A tape-measure. I’m always happy to see one, and they are almost always nicely designed.


Simon Fujiwara’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf is part of two days of events in conjunction with the exhibition The Air We Breathe, which focuses on marriage equality. On Thursday Now Playing took over the museum. Today, Simon’s performance is preceded by a panel discussion on marriage equality with Paul Boneberg, Cleve Jones, Jennifer C. Pizer, Andrea Shorter, Camilla Taylor, and Thomas Watson.

Occupy Wall Street: It Ain’t Over Yet

Fox News screen capture from Nov. 15th featuring the words "GOOD RIDDANCE."

People always clap for the wrong things. — Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye, in Chapter 12

Although I am living in New York I still follow the news on SFGate, KQED, KGO, and other news outlets. What has surprised me is how completely wrong Bay Area media has been about the Occupy Wall Street movement, its motivations, its strategy, and its tactics. In particular, how occupying a park is a TACTIC in the overall STRATEGY to draw attention to the corruption and greed in the system. Important distinction — Tactics vs. Strategy! Besides being confused, the coverage in the Bay Area has been so negative and bizarre, it seems like Fox News is whispering in their ear. That interests me because criticizing Fox News has been a kind of preoccupation of mine for the past two months.

Case in point: at Occupy Wall Street last month I watched postmodern philosopher Slavoj Žižek delivering a passionate speech to the protesters gathered on the steps of Zuccotti Park. After his speech he saw I was making fun of a Fox News reporter, and so he approached me. In his tense, rapid manner, he explained how Glenn Beck was the best thing that had ever happened to Fox News and that Beck expressed Fox’s vision so clearly that they just had to fire him. The danger, Žižek said, was that Beck’s facade was so pure that it became his own real identity. That, in turn, meant that it was harder and harder for Fox to pretend they were really a news organization and not an arm of the Republican party, simply parroting right-wing talking points. And then he ran off into the crowd.

Then yesterday, almost exactly a month later, New York City police officers demolished the camp at Occupy Wall Street, and Fox News went on the war path. Their attitude on television was essentially this: Finally, all the dirty hippie protesters were being thrown out. Finally. Good riddance.

Slavoj Žižek after his speech at Zuccotti Park.

If all you knew about Occupy Wall Street was from mainstream media sources, maybe GOOD RIDDANCE seemed like a fair thing to say — even if it was opinion, and not, in fact, news. Fox even went so far as to use the term GOOD RIDDANCE (all capital letters) as an infographic over footage of the police tearing down tents, throwing books in Dumpsters, and cutting down trees to which some protesters had chained themselves. So as I watched this venomous “news coverage” on TV, it made me think of what Žižek had said — of how the media depends on maintaining an air of legitimacy for it not to be viewed as just some political sideshow.

But then, that’s what media and politics are all about, isn’t it — the battle for the appearance of legitimacy and who is the most real. Take away the appearance of authenticity and nobody will listen to what you say. It’s problematic because secret motivations drive so much in society right now, especially in the media and the power structure — financial interests, political interests, etc. And it’s getting harder and harder to know what is real and what is not. Fox News President Roger Ailes has even admitted on multiple occasions that Fox views itself as a partisan political operation. So why does that matter? Because news is supposed to inform the public, not lie to it.

But on top of the media empire (Fox is just one part of it) is Rupert Murdoch, who happens to own Fox News and its affiliated organizations. One such organization was News of the World in Great Britain. News of the World was recently shut down because it came out that some of the staff had been bribing police to obtain access to the voice mailboxes of prominent politicians, celebrities, and private citizens. Apparently this had been going on for years. The phone hacking scandal, as it became known, caused the British prime minister’s communications director, Andy Caulson, to resign, as he had been editor of News of the World before his appointment. Then, on July 17, just two months before Occupy Wall Street began, the head of Scotland Yard — Britain’s most senior police officer — Sir Paul Stephenson, announced his resignation because he had hired another News of the World editor as an “advisor.” Numerous other News of the World editors and staff were arrested, and the reporter who leaked the story, Sean Hoare, was found dead on July 18 in his apartment. His death is still unexplained.

So when I saw that coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been mostly negative, I wasn’t surprised. Looking at how News of the World, its editors, staff, and its owner, Rupert Murdoch, have broken the law repeatedly and colluded with police to get personal data and access to private records, well, what else are they capable of? I mean, if your organization is willing to bribe police, what else is out of bounds? Surely Fox and other news media wouldn’t deliberately try to smear a legitimate grassroots movement opposing such things as financial industry corruption, media corruption and bias, and political corruption. No, of course not, the news is always fair and balanced.