..U.S. 70, Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 21, 2012
..Serie: New American Topographics

American Loneliness

The degree of enthusiasm with which I look at Iñaki Bergera’s photographs almost scared me. The photos of Bergera are my eyes.
I pay attention, when I travel through the United States, to the same matters that Bergera notices. That’s why I’m enthusiastic about
what he sees. It happened to me when I saw his series on American gas stations, which is a brilliant tribute to Ed Ruscha. Those
ruined gas stations were the haunted America, the America of the past. The New American Topographics series encourages all
the American architectural mysteries: what was and is not, the time over, the absence of people where there were many people
before, people who stopped in those one-storey houses with their cars, or gas station’s employees that were there waiting to
serve the customers, and the words that in those gas stations and in those bars and in those stores and in those unnamed
places were said, and the gestures, and the cold or the heat, the four stations coming one after another over the small and simple
American architecture.

Bergera sympathizes with the places, floats a lay prayer for those spaces that do not enjoy the solemnity of other architectures.
They are not cathedrals, they are not museums, they are not castles, they are not great mansions. They are not Europe, they
are America. Therefore, they are places halfway between architecture and nothingness, halfway between the empty lot and
the hut, between the ghost and the human being, between the zombie and the person.

I do not think there is anything more American than a gas station or a motel or a liquor store or a gym or a wall or a trailer or
a mobile home or a storage or a flag in the middle of nowhere or the tangled electric wires or the aged poles or a Stop sign
next to a cactus or the posters that advertise remote businesses or the classic skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles.

In some photos of Bergera nature has already begun to eat up the building, it is almost as if there was a restitution. It is as if nature
would say: “I already take away what is mine”. And the vegetation would begin to grow on the ground, on the walls, on the cracks.

The power poles are America, that’s what Bergera tells us. They are the scars of the air. Electric poles founded the United States.
They managed to snatch space from nature. The power poles stablished communication, and therefore the American planet.
They never buried them, I’ve always wondered why. Outdoors, as monument to colonization. Or as a proud display of electricity.

The things that come up on this New American Topographicsseries possess a humble, simple beauty, such as the parking lots.
In the United States, these parking spaces are different from the Spanish and European ones. When I drive my car through the
Midwest (I am now living in Iowa City) I always know that wherever I go, I will be able to park. And that the parking lot will always
be spacious and that it will end with a kind of brake in the form of a rung so that the front wheel knows how far it can reach.
The parking spaces are a good symbol of the minimal and anonymous architecture of the United States. They are architectural
spaces that only serve to shelter a car. You cannot stay to live in them. I would like to know how many parking lots there are in the
United States: plazas with their traces and their white stripes, meditated places to become parking. I estimate that around seven
hundred million lots, I calculate. Who can know such an strange data? Parkings are the homes of the cars, they are like the old
horse stables. There the cars rest.

The life of automobiles is another of the passions that I share with Bergera. The memory of the United States is motoring memory,
a family tree based on the evolution of the car industry. Because cars are friends of the soul, old cars, from the 50s, 60s and 70s,
cars that are now design and art. The industrial art of American middle classes. Cars of all kinds, from the classic saloon, through
the van, the truck, to the convertibles and sports models. Or those gigantic cars with only two doors, which are an exaltation of
discomfort, cars of more than four meters and only two doors, an American genius. Sometimes I think that there can be
neither science nor literature nor art nor philosophy in societies that do not have cars. Cars are our tiny little freedom, the possibility
of going somewhere else. Because America is also that, it’s a kind of if you do not like this, get out of here. It may not be a great
freedom, but is better than nothing. Americans are possibilists.

Maybe democracy is that: a man, a car.

I am also very disturbed by the presence of the mailboxes, which are like elongated boxes where your mail lies. If you have a
mailbox, the President of the United States can already write you in order to defend the homeland. That’s a mailbox in the USA:
waiting for the arrival of burning news from the President. If you have a mailbox, you exist. Hence, they have their architectural touch,
which is produced in that suspension of a metal box in which the mailman leaves the correspondence. Although those desolate
mailboxes of 8379 Quail Springs Roadgive the feeling that they no longer wait for the visit of any postman. It is impossible to imagine
a human presence next to the mailboxes that Bergera portrays.

Iñaki Bergera has noticed those spaces and those mysterious and vaguely functional architectures, vaguely human, vaguely real,
that always enclose the enigma of American solitude. The great loneliness of the gigantic territories, the spaces punished by the
capricious hand of man, the moral ruins, where suddenly appears a worn and dusty old armchair, and one wants to sit there and
never get up.

American solitude has style. It is special, and Bergera knows it and communicates it and transcends it in a way as admirable
as beloved.

Manuel Vilas. Iowa City, Fall 2017

[Text published on "New American Topographics", Madrid: La Fábrica 2018]