Before I die

RELATED TERMS: Community building; Interaction



After losing someone she loved and experiencing deep depression, artist Candy Chang created an interactive wall on an abandoned house in her neighbourhood to create an anonymous place to help restore perspective and share intimately with neighbours while remaining an introvert. After receiving permission, she painted the side of an abandoned house in her neighbourhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stencilled it with a grid of the sentence, “Before I die I want to ___.” Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.

It was all an experiment and she didn’t know what to expect. By the next day, the wall was full of responses and it kept growing: Before I die I want to… sing for millions, plant a tree, hold her one more time, straddle the International Date Line, see my daughter graduate, eat more everything, abandon all insecurities, be completely myself… She understood her neighbours in new and enlightening ways, and the wall reminded her that she’s not alone as she tries to make sense of her life.

After posting a few photos online, the images spread and she received hundreds of messages from people who wanted to make a wall with their community. She created this website with resources and now thanks to passionate people around the world, over 1,000 Before I Die walls have been created in over 35 languages and over 70 countries, including Kazakhstan, Iraq, Haiti, China, Ukraine, Portugal, Japan, Denmark, Argentina, and South Africa. The Before I Die book is a celebration of these walls and the stories behind them. Follow the latest Before I Die walls and responses on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and a seasonal newsletter. Say hello here.

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Filmed July 2012 at TEDGlobal 2012 Candy Chang: Before I die I want to…

Contributed by Mamiko Yamazaki