ARTLURKER

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A brief treatise on The Art of Fucking About by Victor Barrenechea

Lucas Cranach (the elder), Der Jungbrunnen (The fountain of youth), 1526.

A wise man once said to me:

“All I’ve ever wanted to do with my life is just ‘fuck about.’ You really should try to ‘fuck about’ for as long as you can possibly get away with it.”

Inspiring words indeed and they came out of the mouth of none other than our very own Thomas Hollingworth; proprietor of this here ARTLURKER.

Where would humanity be if the likes of Burroughs or Einstein, hadn’t devoted a good portion of their formative years to ‘fucking about’? As a concept Hollingworth regards ‘fucking about’ as a quintessential guiding belief and ultimately a necessary component of a fully lived life.

I recently got together with Hollingworth for a serious and extensive discussion on the notion of ‘fucking about.’ Much like the trials and tribulations faced by author Carlos Castaneda, the exchange took time and a certain sense of suspended disbelief; but the results were well worth it.

Albert Einstein, not doing genius stuff at the beach, 1945.

It was still dark out and he was clearly drunk when I knocked on his door that fateful morning. He was a frightful sight. With a face masked by disheveled hair and a body clad in some kind of out-sized caftan that barely concealed his genitals, he purported not so much obvious horror as grim intrigue. His hunched figure crept across the room followed swiftly by his ghastly, looming shadow. As he led me into a dimly lit room adorned with ancient tapestries and esoteric sculptures he informed me under his breath that he hadn’t slept. I must have blinked or looked away for a moment because suddenly he appeared before me on a cushion; composed as though I had located him within this warren of curiosities of my own accord. He bade me be seated and I took my place on a dusty velvet poof across from him. Amidst clouds of incense that burned somewhere off in the gloom he seemed almost like a specter. Sitting cross-legged, his eyes fixed on me, one twitched, the other just stared. I raised my camera.

“NO PHOTO’S!” he shrieked.

Without saying another word he lunged forward and wrapped his talon-like fingers around a dark wooden goblet, filled with a mysterious green liquid. Not breaking his stare he drank deeply and insisted I do the same. I took one gulp, and switched on my tape recorder as the wisdom of the cosmos began to unfurl before me……

Victor Barrenechea, seated.

Just to give our readers cultural context, is ‘fucking about’ anything like what we Americans call ‘goofing off?’

Well yes, I suppose; in as much as our versions of the English language are the same. To ‘goof’ for me implies an aspect defined by a certain laxity of sense; a quintessential state of ‘goofiness’ where as ‘fucking about’ I know, at least in the context to which I have become gratefully accustomed, refers more to the absence of purpose, as opposed to actions that are labeled purposefully slapstick or infantile in their nature.

Is it anything like ‘slacking off?’ It seems to me that it’s possible to ‘fuck about’ in either an active or passive manner.

You are right. One can approach the subject in these terms, however, to fully, how should I say… embrace what it stands for then you have to look at it in retrospect. It’s maybe not so much something that you would consciously do – for example “lets go fuck about today” – but rather over time you would come to accept it as something that you did. I believe that your question arose from a quote I borrowed from Martin Warner, the father of my childhood friend Frances of the same name. As I recall, Mr. Warner had given me some very sound life advice amounting to “look lad, don’t worry about all that shit yet, just fuck about, as long as you can, seriously, just fuck about because one day you’ll have to stop, but until then just fuck about”. I think that was pretty much it, apart from I think he called me Nuby and that his about sounded more like “abaaaaaarrt.” Anyway, whether he knew which context he was talking about [if he was speaking specifically at all] is of little importance as I regardlessly interpreted his message as being fairly unconcerned with details comparative to the emphasis he placed on his air of “this is solemn wisdom learned from years of regret”. Fucking about is something that we do that we look fondly upon later as something that we did. It goes deeper than laziness or unproductivity, it’s more like an era, a phase, and it’s actually one of the most rewarding and necessary things you can do (if you happen to be anything like me).

So, if one were to decide one morning to pull the sheets over his or her head and say, “Screw it, I’m not going in to work today!” can it only be construed as ‘fucking about’ at the end of the day? “What did you do today?” “Nothing….I called in sick to work and just ‘fucked about’ around the house (in the park, at the beach, etc…).”

This usage is acceptable but it is not ‘fucking about’ in the vernacular. As previously stated, for me, the action is perceived with considerable retrospect as a time in your life versus a wasted day that happened last week or even yesterday.

Why is fucking about so important?

Such is the nature of fucking about that one can only begin to attempt to answer such a question with any degree of authority when one is able to fully comprehend or appreciate the undulating tones of one’s life, from a distance and in due course. However, for the purpose of illustration I will venture that the importance or value of carelessness, naivety and gullible flippancy in one’s formative years is that it serves as a linear divining rod for the future approximation of happiness or satisfaction with life’s accomplishments. I postulate then that growth, perspicacity, sagacity and maturity rely to a certain extent on, or at the very least benefit from, the comparison that one is able to draw between gainful existence [as defined by capitalist dogma] and fucking about.

Cover art for the record The Whole Church Should Get Drunk by Rev. Dr. James Wade.

People often warn of the negative consequences of ‘fucking about.’ How would you address such criticism?

With vehement chants of ‘absolute poppycock!’ I mean sure, there are always risks; but a bad egg is a bad egg no matter which way you slice the cow.

Is ‘fucking about’ necessarily selfish? You often find that people quit “fucking about” as soon as other people start to depend on them, like children for instance.

Not so much selfish as existentialist. Though having said that, although it undoubtedly benefits the individual (and is often necessary just like brushing your teeth) it also benefits the group by facilitating well rounded people. However, and it pains me to continually stress this, fucking about is symbolic of a time or an era or epoch of your life. One would assume that when one phase begins – for example a child coming into your life – that another must end. As such there can be no conscious choice, no responsibility. No one quits fucking about, they get fired.

But do you think the firing inevitable? To use your analogy, would it be possible to work the same job for the rest of your life? And if you do get fired, is it possible to get your job back? And what if you feel like I do personally that the boss [god] is slowly cutting back your hours?

Have you ever met an Irish gypsy? I personally would be very weary of someone who never got ‘fired’. I met one once, and his five brothers.
In regard to your shameful predicament, it sounds to me like you need to sleep out in the dirt. That’s a quote that probably would apply here -I think, but you’ll have to give me a little slack on the references considering how much whiskey I might or might not have drunk. I also think – and I may be wrong for reasons just discussed and others more intrinsic – that the ‘firing’ is not inevitable. Let’s just say that those that work real hard never lose their jobs and once you lose your job there isn’t anybody that’s any good that’s going to give it you back.

If we were to expand your analogy (and I find it imperative that we do) what would ‘overtime,’ ‘worker’s comp,’ and ‘severance pay’ each represent?

I am willing to entertain this but only on the proviso that it is understood that the analogy is yours. To my understanding it was you that first referred to “slacking off”. Followed by another unprompted reference to work when you said: “If one were to decide one morning to pull the sheets over his or her head and say, “Screw it, I’m not coming in to work today!”" But essentially I see where you are coming from. And I must contest a lapse in the analogous banter between questions 4 and 6 until I referenced, in response to your suggesting “quitting” that one does not quit but rather “gets fired”. That established I will now continue, in what appears to be somewhat of an unnecessary vein, to answer your question: I suppose ‘over time’ would be ‘recklessness’, ‘workers comp’ would be ‘acid flash backs’ and ‘severance pay’, well, this one’s interesting, and I think I might have actually received this ‘severance pay’. I think this would be when a childhood friend that you ‘fucked about’ with gets a girlfriend that he wants to impress and he pays you either in money, bitch favors, or in my case drinks, for acting somewhat respectable and complimentary (to both him and her) in her company. Such lame ass ass kissing (I just wanted to use an ass-to-ass sentence) should be punished, and in my friend’s case, if my memory serves me correctly, it was.

Do you feel that the analogy of employment is somewhat antithetical to the ethos of “fucking about?”

Actually I do and I don’t. I have always had a job of some kind of another and I have always fucked about. In fact, at the moment I am unemployed and yet do less fucking about than I have ever would have thought possible. It doesn’t take a genius to vacuum shut the wrimple.

This “vacuum shut the wrimple” analogy only seems to beg the question, what on earth is a “wrimple?” A quick perusal of Merriam Webster’s seems to indicate that no such word exists. Perhaps you meant “wimple”? But that only raises further questions as Webster’s defines a “wimple” as:

1: a cloth covering worn over the head and around the neck and chin especially by women in the late medieval period and by some nuns
2: Scottish a: a crafty turn : twist b: curve, bend

Is this what you were referring to? The sound of the word? I also just Googled the word “wrimple” and it automatically assumed that I mistyped the word “wimple.” Further research seems to indicate that the word might be somewhat synonymous with “wrinkle” but I can’t tell for sure. I don’t want to make any brash assumptions. Is it slang? Colloquialism? This discussion cannot continue further until the matter is resolved.

Once again you appear to be bogged down with semantics. To my knowledge there is no such thing as a wrimple but the notion that it could exist, or that my saying it helps bring it from the mists of imagination into figuration or form excites me. The only explanation I can offer you, apart from whiskey, is that when I was growing up I was surrounded by all these sayings such as “’till the hens come home to roost”. In my deviancy I would subvert them mainly for my own pleasure. At first the subversions were fairly basic, like substituting hens for cows thus creating a comedic image. As time went on and my already engorged sense of the ridiculous grew massive pulsing tumors and began to digest my sense of reason, the sayings became twisted, more nonsensical, but always amusing, at least to me. Good research though.

Well if I had to choose between your lengthier explanation and your brief, more plausible, parenthetical “(whiskey)” explanation, I’m going to have to go with the latter. What brand have you been drinking these days? I’m a big fan of Black Velvet, myself. It’s Canadian. Ever tried it?

Oh now here’s a topic I can get my teeth into. Actually recently I have been drinking a huge hurricane size bottle of Johnny Walker Black but typically I like the single malts. I tend to alternate between the Scottish and the Irish. Though generally I think I prefer the Irish for taste the triple distilled stuff sometimes gets a bit too smooth and I crave the fire water of a Highland malt like a Glenlivet or a Glenfiddich or even a real smoke out with some of the Lowland malts or Islay malts. I have never tried a Black Velvet but I would like to. I have to admit that my experience of whiskey from the America’s has been somewhat jaundice and unpleasant. Some bourbons are okay but I feel that you guys complicate the matter too much – Southern Comfort for example makes me want to rip my skin off and live underground. Also, I have never been much of a cigar man, apart from a month when I was homeless in Rome, but I appreciate the combination of thick smoke and hard liquor and as such I tend to drink alone.

I personally am not a smoker, but I do appreciate the smell of cigar smoke, and pipe smoke especially. For a brief period I wanted to take up pipe smoking, but it had more to do with the novelty of it than anything else. I never did pick up the habit, but I think that if I were to make it to old age I’d almost be bound by duty to take on this particular affectation, which brings up another interesting point about old age that you can probably relate to… Gaining weight is a natural part of getting old, but I’ve noticed the way my grandfather gained weight: he stayed pretty skinny except for his stomach where he developed a bit of a beer gut as he aged. I think I might be genetically disposed to grow a gut, and I’m kind of looking forward to it. Do you think the same will happen to you?

Well, I have been trying to put on weight for years but it’s never happened. It’s true that what little weight I do gain tends to go around my stomach but whether I will develop one of those hard barrel beer bellies is yet to be seen. I have a bad back, you see, and my knees are a bit fucked up too. I imagine that as I grow old, if I grow old, that my various aliments will become more pronounced and fat, if it will gather at all, will gather in areas that become retarded or disfigured owing to inhibited movement or poor posture. Muscles, if I ever grow any, will undoubtedly sag way before this happens but I imagine that the whole effect will combine to eventually produce a very weird looking human being – kind of like the child eater from Pan’s Labyrinth only with more hair.

I’ve never seen Pan’s Labyrinth, but I hear it has something to do with the Spanish Civil War. Speaking of the Spanish Civil War, what’s your take on Francisco Franco? Wouldn’t you agree that the alliteration of his name is almost TOO perfect?

He’s clearly a tool and Edward Woodward would kick his ass[.]

.

Who was Edward Woodward? The actor? Where did he come from? And what did he have to do with all this? Before I could summon the wherewithal to ask my head reeled with unearthly confusion and an acute and crippling nausea gripped the pit of my stomach. I suddenly found it hard to breathe and as the room began to spin madly around me I collapsed groaning onto my side. All the while, Hollingworth sat watching me intently, his grin advancing toward me through the thick fog of incense.

Thomas Hollingworth, leering.

Those few broken images are the last fragments I can retrieve from my memory before awaking four days later in a bathtub full of ice with a splitting headache and a missing kidney. I had clearly been ‘had’ but the lessons learned burned hotter in my brain than the scorching pain in my side or the fury of my battered pride. Up until that fateful morning my life had been a waste; or rather, it hadn’t been enough of a waste. For all his pseudo-guru-esq guises masking guiles of nifty organ thievery, Hollingworth had set me on a glorious and enlightening path to purposelessness. What he took from me was nothing compared to that which he gave and for that, although my blood now runs thick and full of toxins, I will be forever grateful.

From this day forward I was transformed into a master of living — a master in the art of living. If art is life then we are each our own magnum opus, our own greatest accomplishments. There is an art to life, one which necessitates skill and understanding, standards and effort. How arrogant we are to assume that without a broad spectrum of experience we can drink as deeply from an uninterrupted vista as the likes of Hollingworth. It’s true that he stole my kidney, but if the half of what I received in return is a quarter of the whole that was available to me then I wish he had taken both.

Alas, when I returned to his home I found no trace of his presence, no gate, no dirty hair, no dimly lit rooms. The road the second time had a different turn to it, the trees seemed to shake with a different tone. The seeming illusion of the madness that had transpired still overwhelmed the crevices of my mind like a deep fog. My feet, although they stood in the exact same spot, felt as though they could be on holiday in Burma, and where his house once stood, now a Starbucks sold Mocajavalattes to trampled, rule abiding, otherwise normal people. Blinded by the shackles of a life of duress and consumed by the illusion of a fulfilling career they flailed mindlessly toward a meaningless death, as I walked on.

art….Art….ART!

…………………………………………………………………………… — Victor Barrenechea

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Related articles:

http://www.petergena.com/cageMCA.html

http://randomcapers.blogspot.com/2007/06/beauty-of-purposelessness.html

http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474977095835

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10 Comments

  • Richard Haden

    Hello Guru Bob. I enjoyed yor session. Now it is my turn.

    Wrimple: I googled it to. The results I got led back to an ARTLURKER. So hell, the word must exist. I also found it posted at a site: 10 zillion light years

    Goofing off takes the enthusiasm and purpose out of fucking off. For a slacker parks bio mass instead of carrying on. “Fucking off” still leads somewhere.

    This article reminds me of a book I once read. A three volume book by Robert Musil, titled ” The Man Without Qualities” or as another translator might argue a man without attributes. It is a story set in Vienna, Austria , the year 1913. Like this fascinating article and study-here- before us [part soliloquy, muse and conversation], Musil spent 20 years of his life devoted to a similar subject.– if I may bend it that way.

    Musil’s protagonist wanders the salons of Viennese high culture pondering a very similar subject, “purpose”. Instead of ‘Fucking about’, he / his translator uses the phrase “Muddling through”…”the Austrian States principle of Muddling through it”, not as a direct line or course as an arrow takes-of beginning middle and end. But more like the hobo who hops the train…instead, Musil’s protagonist, Ulrich prefers the meandering, more like the character who drifts or wonders the streets of a Baudelaire novel–a wondering kind of exploration ( I think it was Baudelaire, excuse me if I have the wrong author). Musil’s, Ulrich finds his social world so full of pedagogues and idealist that he rejects them to become content with life’s ambiguity and contingencies, to the point where they become life’s necessity (sort of a positive existential thing) I take it as an intellectual realization that we constantly find rejuvenation and passion in the constant quest of the “Fucking off”, “Muddling through it” or simply making our life’s work the creation of–and the surpassing of– Art…artfully.

    The first book, entitled “A Sort of Introduction”, is an introduction of the main character of the story, a 32-year old mathematician named Ulrich who is in search of a sense of life and reality but fails to find it. His ambivalence towards morals and indifference to life has brought him to the state of being “a man without qualities,” depending on the outer world to form his character. A kind of keenly analytical passivity is his most typical attitude.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Without_Qualities

  • margallo

    Is “fucking about” the same as “fucking around”? I think that there is a “temporality” which is not addressed in either, yet it needs to be addressed. If it hadn’t been you would not have had the job at the gallery that you had and you could not be a successful blogger like you are. Do we “sweat it out” or do we keep it at a low level all our life? There are lots to be said for both.(Now I am beginning to sound like you Tom). By the way, Victor, try the Macallan Cask Strength and you will be in for a sensual jolt that dwarfs something like finding a new Miami artist that will surpass Bas, Gispert or Bert.

  • swampthing

    We humans are not built to work; in the 9-5 m-f dislpaced power process model. Once beyond survival, aka hunt n feast, we are made for slacking with the gods; just like all the other beasts.

  • All about golf

    I sure did. I’m wondering if someone photoshopped ol’ Albert’s torso onto a beautiful pin-up girl at the beach. Did you see how smooth those legs were?

  • leaflitter

    yeah. he’s hot! i dont think the photoshop theory holds water. cardcow.com is a legit vintage postcard dealer. i guess there just must be something to it!

  • Daniel Lee Jones

    Interesting and valid point, fucking about is indeed a needed part of our life, and makes me the twat I am today. If you don’t fuck about when your young, you will try to be young when your old.

    Dan

  • I was there

    I was waiting for the part of the interview when young Victor is shown the finer art of “chasing the dragon” and the virtues of opiate rectal suppositories.

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A brief treatise on The Art of Fucking About by Victor Barrenechea