‘Dans ma cour ça du chien!’: The story behind the colourful dogs of Place des Arts

Walking through Place des Arts in the summer months, one is greeted by a variety of neon dog statues. These furry creatures are part of artist Mélanie Crespin’s interactive art piece “Dans ma cour ça du chien!” For me, the dogs have become an iconic part of strolling through the Quartier des Spectacles, and a frequent presence in photos with friends, family, and roommates.

In an email to The McGill Tribune, Crespin explained the backstory and inspiration behind the whimsical installation. 

“The project celebrates the arrival of the spring days, allowing citizens and tourists to reappropriate the outdoor public space in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere,” Crespin wrote.

The piece was commissioned by Quartier des Spectacles in 2018 and has been on display every summer since 2019.

“In 2018, for the first ‘Dans ma cour’ edition […], the Quartier des Spectacles partnership invited me to propose a kitsch and ephemeral art installation to celebrate the return of the spring days, a proposition inviting visitors to wander, to take time and to reappropriate Saint-Catherine Street after long winters,” Crespin explained.

However, the project did not initially begin with the iconic dogs on display now.

“[In the first edition], a dozen scenes offered to the citizens a playful and unusual experience inspired by the kitsch universe that can be found in North American backyards,” Crespin wrote. “Colourful plastic animals […], artificial flowers, synthetic grass, deckchairs and lounge chairs allowed citizens and tourists to take the time to enjoy the first rays of the sun, in an original and offbeat atmosphere.”

The installation now comprises 10 scenes featuring different species of coloured dog statues. All the sculptures are handcrafted by Décors 3D, an interior designer from Montreal, who followed Crespin’s noted designs.

“Each dog portrait has been meticulously refined, which is expressed in the sculptures,” Crespin wrote. “The dogs have their own personality, story, and colour. Each scene is a friendly invitation for interactions between humans and dogs, between citizens and the installations.”

Crespin feels that viewers should approach it with a certain lightheartedness. 

“Although this installation was thought of with seriousness, each animal has a profile, a temperament, a story, it has to be taken with humour and lightness,” Crespin wrote.

The installation invites passers-by to have a bit of fun and explore the commonalities between ourselves and our canine companions.

“A german shepherd is waiting for someone to play with, a bull terrier is meditating with visitors, a rather psychological saluki is sitting on a bench waiting for a human confidence,” Crespin explained. “Some behaviours are more natural […] than others, which are more caricatural. This installation is a kind of irony facing our human behaviours which are reflected in the canine figures.” 

Although the pandemic has limited our activities in some ways, public art installations have remained an integral part of the city experience. While the summer months were at times isolating, installations like this one brightened the streets and made walks all the more exciting. 

“For the 2020 and 2021 editions, […] ‘Dans ma cour, ç’a du chien!’ was exposed more than expected, as cultural gatherings were cancelled,” Crespin wrote. “It was [fortunate] that the installation was [displayed] in the street after the first three months of containment, and as a return to social and entertaining outings [….] [As] the first event in the Quartier des Spectacles, after three months of containment in 2020, I think it was a breath of fresh air.”

Crespin’s next projects are in the works for this fall at several locations. One includes an upcoming exhibition in the McCord Museum and another includes an art installation for the botanical gardens with artist Alexandre Burton and the National Film Board of Canada.

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