Philippe Velez McIntyre was born in Paris and grew up in Colombia and the United States. In the beginning of the eighties he moved back to Europe where he has been living as a freelance photographer and social activist, first in Madrid and then in Paris. Since the early nineties he lives and works in Amsterdam.
His work has evolved around the theme of rural and urban socio-cultural initiatives, particularly where culture meets nature.
His philosophy of life being: Those who have been priviledged and have had the opportunities and the good fortune to choose for what passioned them, have the greater responsibility to contribute for the common good.
All Photographs and Publications © Philippe Velez McIntyre, Philippe McIntyre, except when otherwise mentioned.
All Publications available via Boekie Woekie Books by Artists, Amsterdam, except when otherwise mentioned.
RG: What does culture need to thrive as an ecosystem? It’s not that you just need your apartment, it’s part of a fabric. Like, how does one person try to build that — what basics does a culture need to thrive?
JM: What’s culture? How are you defining culture?
RG: Maybe getting back to that idea of risk, who participates?
JM: Low rent allows so much to happen. It allows people to take risks. Whether that’s creative risks, professional risks, sexual risks, political risks. When you don’t have low rent, you have people who have to be obedient, because they have to make a living in order to pay that rent. So they’re not gonna dissent. And they’re not gonna deviate.
RG: Low rent equals time?
JM: It means time and it means you can fail and survive. So if you can fail and survive, you can do all kinds of things. You can publish something incendiary. And if you piss some people off and it takes away from your bottom line, so be it. Because you’ve got low rent. You can make art that upsets people. You can have a political viewpoint that you put out into the world that not everybody’s gonna like. You can risk making people not like you.
RG: So does culture just get pushed to other boroughs and squeezed from there to – wherever? You mention the South Bronx in the book, the controversy around a “Bronx is burning” party. How are artists complicit or co-opted into hyper-gentrification? Staging an urban-blight theme party is part of it. Don’t artists at this point have to be aware of when they’re basically helping to get themselves evicted?
JM: I think they do.
RG: But they need the work?
JM: The artist question is so hard. I find it intellectually and emotionally difficult. Because I want a city full of artists – I mean, I want New York to be full of artists and writers and dancers and, you know –
RG: Risk takers?
JM: Risk takers and queers and – and these people have been co-opted by larger forces as the shock troops of gentrification, right? Some are complicit, some love gentrification. They do. And others have a more conflicted relationship with it.
RG: The staging of the Bronx through art seems particularly offensive.
JM: Yeah. That seems to be ground zero where a lot of artists, mostly artists of color, are fighting the whole co-opting there.
RG: You end the book on a hopeful note. Are you hopeful?
JM: Hope is not the word I would use. I would use a word like steadfast. I haven’t given up.
RG: You haven’t given up — on what?
JM: I haven’t given up on waking people up. I think my work is about consciousness raising more than anything else. I’m a psychoanalyst. I believe that people can become conscious, but you have to help them. We all have to help – and we have to help ourselves. I’m not saying that I’m totally conscious. I have hope for increased consciousness, and with increased consciousness can come change. But I don’t think you can skip the consciousness raising part. So that’s where my optimism lives.
• Vanishing New York: How A Great City Lost Its Soul (HarperCollins, 2017)
“I would like to put forward the concept of the city as a ‘do-space’.
People will have to take centre stage again.
European inner cities have to change from
passive consumer spaces into active ‘do-areas’.
This means that public space in big cities
must be employed to develop workshops
(not festivals!) collectively, in which people
‘practise’ active citizenship. All kinds of
things can be discussed there and put on the
agenda and at the same time a strategy for
change can be developed, as an antidote to
the privatisation of public space. It appears
that in all the big cities of Europe and the US,
a large majority of young city-dwellers are all
in favour of Europe, in favour of democracy
and a just distribution of wealth. We have to
seriously start working with them. It’s always
a battle to shape a city, and it’s something
I like doing, too. Because cities aren’t about
comfort, relaxing with a cup of herbal tea in
a café with sustainable windows. Resistance
against neoliberal urban planning must come
from the cities themselves.”
excerpt ; from The City as Battleground
AN INTERVIEW WITH
TALK OF THE TOWN
Green European Journal, Winter Issue 2017
“Some who are fortunate enough to have communities still, do fight to keep them, but they have seldom prevailed. While people possess a community, they usually understand that they can’t afford to lose it; but after it is lost, gradually even the memory of what was lost is lost.”