The impossible city

Sebastian Horsley is an artist, writer and failed suicide. His long-awaited book Dandy in the Underworld – an unauthorized autobiography – will be published next year.

In the I of the storm

On top of my wardrobe are the three suitcases that I commissioned from Papworth. Like their owner, they are purely for effect. I never leave my flat. I don't take holidays - my whole life is a holiday. I retired at birth.

I wasn't born in a slum, but I moved into one as soon as I could afford it. I live on Meard Street - Shit Street - and I am happy. From my flat, Soho is a sewer with service.

There are two Georgian panelled rooms here - a studio and small bedroom. Even this is too much for me; I never know what people do with the room they're not in. Spare spaces, unattended and uncared for, become nasty and start bitching about you behind your back.

The kitchen and bathroom are tiny; I have been in bigger women. And I can't work out my oven; it seems to flush. I don't care. I don't want a nest. I am a cave-dwelling creature.

I wanted everything in my home to be as useless, as beautiful, and as vacant as its tenant. I have no furniture. No chairs, no sofa, no coffee table, not even a decaffeinated coffee table. I keep one spoon, one fork, one plate, one cup so that in my weaker moments I can still eat. What is left I have entombed in red velvet. I have an old bed which is too small for me - I have to sleep diagonally in it. It was cheap but this made sense to me. A wooden bed is better than a golden coffin.

Lastly, I have a throne from which to drone. It isn't particularly stately, but then even the grandest throne in the world is just an upholstered bench. I am happy. The studio has a desk at one end and an easel at the other. The floorboards are bare. This is my pared-down life as I have planned it, the springboard from which to sally forth and dazzle. In my little room I can be my horrible unique self.

Outside is perfect too. The ideal view for painting is a brick wall. There are few things more reassuring. I have two - one for each aspect. And I have shutters as well which I keep firmly closed. A gentleman never looks out of the window unless he is working. I have mirrors instead. I like mirrors. When you look out of the window all you see is ugliness. In the glass of the mirror all is perfectly divine. It is ideal. I have constructed a cage to trap my dreams. Here I can fester like a disease.

I do not believe in abroad. No one would want to go there if they hadn't been told it existed. In the same way that people would never fall in love if they had never heard of love.

Of course everyone is at it now. People who cannot expect any alteration in their lives to be wrought by a deepening understanding either of themselves or their friends must seek variety from external sources. This is a mistake. Travelling narrows the mind. It is an admission of spiritual bankruptcy to hope that something else
will come along to fill the black holes of your soul.

I have no need to go beyond my studio. The adventure, the great adventure, is to see something unknown appear, surge forth each day in the same face, the same street, the same brothel. A trip round the world? There are just so many other places I want to see first.

I stay where I am and the world comes to visit me. You see, if you build quality work (myself), the world will make a beaten path to your door though you may build your house in the woods. For I am England's finest beauty spot.

Occasionally I leave my flat and my dead world takes on a semblance of life. But only into Soho. Invitations to go to Notting Hill and the like go straight in the bin. If you live there you deserve to be punished: it is a Sebastian-free zone.

Soho is a madhouse without walls. Men impersonating women, women impersonating men, human beings impersonating human beings. Millions of people being lonely together. Soho is about hunger and Soho is about need. It is a creature possessed of nothing but a stomach and a penis.

And so everything I need is here. The twisting, swarming streets of Soho, snaking their way like arteries and veins through a body are where, like a vampire, I feed this need. What more do I want? It was hard for Satan alone to mislead the whole world, so he appointed priests, pimps, dandies, dealers, tailors and prostitutes in different localities. Here you will find them all. Living in Soho is like coming all the time.

I love you, horrible city. I will never leave you.

When artists try to make art that is universal and not personal they always fail - it's being personal which makes it universal in the end. This has always been my nature. The junkie is simply the larval stage of an artist. They both like to be alone and left to feed on whatever material they have alighted on. Now I have been straight for over a year. Having eliminated heroin and crack cocaine, I am amazed to find that almost all my pleasures can be, and mostly are, shared by a dog. I like to stay at home licking my genitals.

You can travel all you like. No matter where a man travels there is never any escape from his own wretched identity. You can make the journey only to find the very thing which you have fled.

That the voyage of life is completely insignificant makes me ecstatic. I haven't really had a life. I've just sat in a room and died. You would not drag a corpse out of his grave so I cannot be made to leave my studio. But I am happy. I am a lighthouse in the middle of a sewer. Brilliant but useless.



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