Iñaki Bergera

Twentysix (abandoned) gasoline stations

photos: © Iñaki Bergera . + full set

There are twentysix gas stations like in Ed Ruscha’s project (1963). A tribute? And, why not?

“Whatever power there is in the pictures is bound to the closeness with which they skirt banality”.
Robert Adams

The objects themselves attract me. I don’t pursue any documentary task and yet these shoots may also be read as documents of our contemporary context of crisis and abandonment. Rather, I look at them as architectural pieces, as typologies with scale, size, form, structure and a particular relationship with their generic and blurred context. My straight and explicit gaze tries to construct an accurate architectural shoot, meaning being concern about framing, perspective and the overall aesthetic balance of the photograph itself. The sequence of photographs attempts not to be bad or style-less as Ruscha’s were implicitly supposes to be.
The stations are all abandoned, like Jeff Brouws’ (1992). Many of these private owned facilities were discarded in the early 1990s when new and expensive security requirements were implemented. Multi-national corporations like Shell, Mobil or Chevron became the McDonalds of gas distribution pushing the traditional and independent stations to their end. In addition, the new highways and their town bypasses contributed to the endemic isolation of these infrastructures.

To me this is not a mimic or an ironic cultural critique and revision of the Americanness clichés. I don’t even attempt to re-contextualize again the reading of these stations as conceptual items. As an European foreigner, to be able to discover these still standing road ruins in the territory means having had the opportunity to experience and reporting a personal encounter with an iconic and emblematic element of the American automobile culture that, despite of being abandoned, is nevertheless alive and kept timeless, like dissected by the strong Southwest sunlight and dust.
Naively I may turn back into romanticism by finding again a sense of purity and beauty on those objects. The quality of architecture is best shown on its ruins, it’s said. In any case, this project has allowed me to travel in time and think about the caducity of the everyday built environment and the capacity architecture has, at its best, to transform common and generic sites.

Iñaki Bergera. New York, 2012

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