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by Joachim Hildebrand
What better way to approach an American myth than through a road trip? Joachim Hildebrand traveled through the seven states of the American Southwest, in which the Wild West is located both geographically and in our imagination. The title of the project inevitably evokes images full of clichés and stereotypes. Today, where the wilderness has been displaced by "civilization", Hildebrand discovers entirely different scenes than those generally associated with the Wild West and the American frontier. He sets his sight on blurred contours, contradictions, borders, and transitions: from architecture to nature, from urbanity to landscape.A reassuring blue sky is sometimes the only element in Hildebrand’s photographs that stands for the pristine or archetypal environment. “Wild West” is a photographic discourse on how humans nest, uproot, and build again. From the urban sprawl to the strip mall, from gated communities to easy freeway access. Hildebrand finds a visual rhythm in the multitude of man-made patterns and materials amongst the outdoors.
The archetypes of the American West have become mere platitudes. “Wild West” is a mecca of surreal irony that has more to do with suburban development than it does with adventures in arid landscape. Here, where triviality meets absurdity, the myths of the Wild West and “manifest destiny” (the belief that the United States has a God-given right to explore, conquer, and claim new territories), which are so essential for the self-understanding of the USA, are deconstructed. "Wild West" can be read as a photo verse that questions remnants of the better days of the American dream from decades gone by and the continued human claim to nature’s vastness. Instead of the virgin landscape, Hildebrand displays a paved paradise that is manufactured by “civilization.” It is a global Wild West in the middle of the American West.Celina Lunsford (Excerpts from her essay “Paved Paradise” in the book)