I think we sometimes don’t use our cities (or towns, or environments, even) enough. But here it is: when you’re utterly broke, suddenly, as shop doors shut fast in your face, something else opens itself up to you, something infinately more mutable than that infrastructure which requires coinage in exchange for patronage. No wonder artists are so oft referred to as “starving”. Really maybe it is the other way round: as in, they are artists because they are poor, not poor because they are artists living in a cold, hard, businessman’s world.
And while they will likely not be poor forever, once the spaces in which they inhabit have conspiratorioally revealed their (free) secrets, they will never go back to being not-artists, even if, in their newfound comfort, they cease to create, in the conventional way that artists do.
And maybe we are all artists, us who live in urban areas, wan with rent-worry; us privilaged youth whose poverty is so relative, so (hopefully) fleeting. We are space-artists: innovative out of necessity, rewarded for our troubles by the warmth of golden sandstone walls at our backs in Radcliffe Square and the luxury of watching people. We decorate the city with our lithe bodies strewn in bathing-suited beauty across the parks in sunshine, with the elegant folds of our legs as we perch on stone steps to have a sandwhich and a can of cider before the sun dips behind the last Oxford college and affords us a darkness under which to hide.
“We always seem to have money for the pub,” he says wonderingly one hot May night. I joke that it’s because this is the only thing that can give us comfort in these dark, broke times, but we both know this isn’t true–everything gives us comfort, just as everything weighs us down. The relative poverty of youth: living to the rhythms of payday, of bills, of knowing without a shadow of a doubt that it is temporary and that we should enjoy it, in our weird way, whilst we can, because while there is shrouded glamour in a bit of leanness, there is little poetry in being always able to afford…
(oh yes, I do say this to comfort myself, a little–but also because it is true)
And in the meantime, we use the city–we’re not just passing through–it’s ours. Not rich, indeed!