|courtesy of Douglas Witmer|
Douglas Witmer’s ongoing wall work, entitled Fruitville, might just as well reference a people, as reference a place: for people, at least as far as villages go, make the place, no? Indeed Fruitville’s persistent – indeed, insistent – individuality as fully-realized, miniature artworks makes it more reminiscent of the unique, one-off nature of people, rather than domiciles or stores, which are more variations upon a theme. In fact, their arrangement, a loosely-milling group, akin to a crowd at a carnival or a shopping mall, is far more characteristic of how we arrange ourselves, rather than our dwellings, shops and shelters. Our buildings often tend to follow lines: straight, curving, intersecting, but orderly lines nonetheless. Despite anthropological protests, lines are not natural to our self-arrangement as humans: they are imposed, rather than innate. This may tell us something about why this series has the name of a village: because it has, if not the direct form of one, the nature of one: more freewheeling, organic and adaptive than a neat-as-a-pin, Lancaster County hamlet might let on. A village was, in its earliest forms, a mutually-beneficial arrangement: for protection and safety; amiability and cohabitation; close-to-hand resources. Whether or not Fruitville is intended as this kind of place – tending towards this looser model – is not entirely the point, but nonetheless, it is more characteristic of a system which is tipped still towards the individual’s strength within a group; the unique shape; the singular contemplating the possibility – the utility – of the corporate.
And it’s not unusual that a gallery (AxD gallery, associated with Always by Design) run by an architectural firm might have been smitten with the whimsical structures of Fruitville. They are, after all, highly reminiscent of dashed-off sketches by architects of basic shapes, edges, lines and blocks of color, groping towards a more realized structure...except these Fruitville objects have maintained the immediacy of the initial, aha-sketches. And of course, architects make their own small – but more realized – models, taking those sketches to the next level of definition. But beneath this fairly neat parallel, one must not forget why the vast majority of architecture happens: it’s to form otherwise undefined space to a particular function – a human function. What, therefore, is more human than architecture? What is more architectural than human intent finding expression in livable artifice? Fruitville is, along with being thoroughly delightful, a serious-minded and ongoing commentary on human artifice through our building(s)…despite itself…ourselves.