“Before I die” …
“I want to abandon all insecurities”
“I want to love and be loved”
“I want to hug a sloth”
Poignant, philosophical, creative, anything but ambivalent.
Last February when Candy Chang set out to transform the side of an abandoned building in New Orleans into a giant chalkboard, on which people could share their hearts, or their sense of humour, I wonder if she knew the impact it would have.
The concept was simple, give people a space to share.
The official description from candychang.com explains, “Before I die is a public art project that invites people to reflect on their lives and share their personal aspirations in public space. Painted with chalkboard paint and stencilled with the sentence “Before I die I want to _______”, the wall turned a neglected space into a constructive one where we can gain perspective.”
And after a successful time in New Orleans, requests for duplication of the wall began to pop up from other cities.
Chang and her colleagues created a website and a “toolkit” so many others could replicate the “Before I die” wall.
The project has branched out to South Africa, the Netherlands, Mexico, Australia, Portugal, Kazakhstan, and Canada. Montreal engaged in the project and Toronto is expecting to see a “Before I die” wall before the end of the summer.
To date there have been over 25,000 responses noted in 7 different countries from 12 walls.
Katie Daubs quoted Martha Radice, an urban anthropologist at Dalhousie University, in her article titled ‘Before I die’ wall coming to Toronto this summer, says the ‘Before I die’ wall gives people a chance to be playful in a public space. ‘It allows people to reveal something of themselves — to make public what is usually quite private, in a low-stakes way‘. ”
Daubs also notes Radice commenting that “the wall also gives people an excuse to interact with strangers — something usually perceived as weird if there’s nothing to talk about. ‘We’ll interact if we get a chance to remark on something remarkable,’ she said.”
Chang’s vision is to create public spaces that encourage us to reflect and, through our collective wisdom, help us lead better lives.
Many levels of interaction create an interesting component to the piece, the individual perspective, and the collaborative vibe created in the context of the neighbourhood and people sharing with one another.
Just imagine the social context of these two authors sharing the same time on the wall and what they must have thought of each other’s posts:
“Before I die I want to be tried for piracy”
“Before I die I want to catch the chalk thief”
“Before I die I want to live my best life”
“Before I die” elicits a great metaphor for perspective and individuality, while at the root bring together a profound and simple intimacy connecting all of us.
What do you want to do before you die?
Share your thoughts with us!
For more information on the creation and fabrication of public art check out our website