Hanging out in Town Square
January 6, 2012


 Town Square, an art installation by Scott Saunders. (Photo courtesy of Scott Saunders)

If Scott Saunders shrugs when you ask him what his outdoor art installation symbolizes, he’s only asking you to make up your own mind.

“People only feel comfortable when they’re told what to think,” says Scott (BFA 2008), as we stand at the corner of Prince and Argyle Streets overlooking his work, Town Square, in the vacant lot where the Chronicle Herald offices used to be and the new convention centre is slated to go.

“I think it’s boring to be told what something is supposed to be. It robs art of its mystery and its essence. Anyway, people relate to it in many different ways and I’m interested in all those different interpretations.”

Town Square consists of a series of life-size figures dressed in white shirts and dark business attire. The figures take many different poses—bent over, lying down, stretched out, climbing fences, curled up—as they appear throughout the downtown lot. The piece is ever changing as Scott moves around figures, reposes them and adds new ones. The installation looks different depending on the time of day or what the weather’s like.
Eventually there will be 100 of the figures, which look eerily human despite their Styrofoam heads and stick arms and legs.

Are they businessmen done in by the rat race? The ghosts of Chronicle Herald reporters? Well-to-do zombies? No, definitely not boring. At any given time, you can spot someone peering through the fence with a quizzical look on their face as if to say, “What the?”

Scott first started creating Town Square, made possible through a grant he received through HRM Cultural Affairs, back in November. At first, he had four figures, arranged in stretched out positions throughout the large lot. By the next morning, the figures had been dragged to the edge of the lot by someone unknown. But he persevered, adding a few more figures at a time. There are about 75 there now.

He still can’t believe he’s been able to create it right in the heart of downtown, with the developer, the Downtown Halifax Business Commission and the city all onside. The site has a rawness combined with an amphitheatre-like quality that appeals to him. Throughout its temporary existence, he’ll be documenting Town Square and its inhabitants. The installation is likely to last until spring, when construction on the convention centre is expected to begin.

“I feel like I’m a painter in three dimensions, creating this composition on a mass scale,” says Scott. “I think it shows us that this city has all the ingredients you need to do really fantastic things if you’re willing to create your own opportunities.” 

 TownSquare2-300 The installation Town Square invites different interpretations depending on the time of day or the weather.
(Photos courtesy of Scott Saunders.)