“Our public spaces are as profound as we allow them to be.¨- Candy Chang
Candy Chang is the artist and creator behind the public initiative ¨Before I die…¨ After losing a close friend to liver failure, Chang spent time contemplating her life and how she would like to live out the remainder of her days. After thinking about death, she had the idea that this surely must be a universal thing that many people contemplate – and she was right.
The original wall was put up on an abandoned building in New Orleans, Louisiana. So many people resonated with the wall, that Chang decided to make it a global art project. Now, more than 2,000 walls have been created in over 76 countries, with 35 languages.
A global movement
¨BEFORE I DIE IS A PARTICIPATORY PUBLIC ART PROJECT that invites people to contemplate death, reflect on life, and share their personal aspirations in public. After losing someone she loved, Chang channeled her grief and depression into this project on an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood to restore perspective and find some consolation with her neighbors. She covered the crumbling house with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with the prompt, “Before I die I want to _____.” The wall quickly filled up with responses, from the poetic to the profound: Before I die I want to… see my daughter graduate, abandon all insecurities, get my wife back, eat all the candy and sushi in the world, be a Youtube sensation, straddle the International Date Line, tell my mother I love her, be completely myself.
Thanks to passionate people around the world, over 2,000 Before I Die walls have now been created in over 70 countries, including Iraq, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan, and South Africa. Revealing the community’s longings, anxieties, joys, and struggles, the project explores how public space can cultivate self-examination and empathy among neighbors and compassionately prepare us for death and grief. It has also inspired dozens of remixes that offer new ways to engage with the people around us.¨
While the responses across the globe vary, there are similar underlying themes: love, hope, faith, family, and happiness.
Some responses across the world have been:
“Learn how to enjoy myself and let go” (Savannah, Georgia)
“Feel that nothing was missing or left over” (Santiago, Chile)
“Be loved unconditionally” (Jersey City, New Jersey)
“Teach kids to live love and be free” (Johannesburg)
“Drive Route 66” (Melbourne, Australia)
Their website offers tools to help you set up your own ¨Before I die¨ wall in your own city or town.
What do you want to do before you die? Share your answers below with us.
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