Creativity can be therapeutic. It can be destructive. Creativity is a process. In a way, creativity is an essential characteristic of relationships to place. It is transformative, it gives us the ability make place meaningful, beautiful, disruptive. It is this act of transformation which reveals where, how, why and in what ways I am oriented to and related with a particular other, or place. Creativity does not necessarily mean the chaotic, the esoteric, the wacky, or the obtuse. It can be about making sense of things. In the stories we tell – personal, collective – we structure our experiences, we seek patterns.
We live in a complex world, our relationships ever more diverse, more numerous. We move, displacing things, displacing ourselves. Materials, new and used, are shipped across the globe. Dredged sand is turned into glass, out of which office workers view ballooning cities. Guatemalan earth grows fruit which is piled up in supermarket boxes on Fishponds Road. A bored student spends months after their studies backpacking through the Andes, meeting others from other countries who are doing the same, and develops an attachment to maté, listens to old, American jazz in an apartment in Barcelona. A schoolteacher from Kenya studies to become a deacon in the UK. A civil engineer gets a job in Dubai for two years, before moving back to Manchester. An Italian from a small village in Tuscany comes to study theatre in London.
Each journey away changes their relationships to all those other places, those places which are also in flux, not stable but shifting entities. My phone and my laptop connect me to even more networks, further unsettling my relationships to place, marginalising some experiences and foregrounding others. I sit in retrofitted factory buildings, former mills and industrial works converted into bars where I can drink cocktails, play ping-pong and work on this website – or I would have done if my life wasn’t spatially influenced by the pandemic. Old social relations dissolve into new ones, natural and social ecologies are reconstructed. The old is sometimes incorporated into marketing strategies to increase the desirability of places.
Places beyond the urban, places in what might be called ‘the natural world’, have been altered, as have our relationships to them. In some places abrupt rupturings occur, in other places we have dressed scars or have created new environments, planting trees, rewilding, constructing parks. The terms ‘artificial’ and ‘natural’ become ever more fraught, diluted, and strange, though we know what we mean when we use them. We live in a hypercomplex world, made of up millions of places, and place-worlds, which rub up against each-other, which merge, swell, incorporate, dissolve, collapse. Places, like plants and animals, are coming into and going out of existence. I feel the need to understand where I am, to understand my place in the world, which does not mean to understand a stable point, but myriad and multiple foci, our field(s) of movement, and the porous, subtle definitions between different places. How common is this feeling?
Creativity can help in this constant re-negotiation, giving us ways to position ourselves differently, to approach materials in ways that are novel, to reconfigure our inherited pasts, and to keep the future open.