Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Before I die, by Candy Chang

Candy Chang, Before I Die. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2013. 303 pages. ISBN 9781250020840.

Candy Chang is an artist who decided to use an abandoned house to create a public art project that would engage a community. She painted the outside of a house in New Orleans with chalkboard paint, then stenciled "Before I Die, I Want to..." and left spaces for people to write whatever they wanted. Within days the space had filled up and created an emotional gathering spot for community members. She's documented her work on a web site: http://candychang.com/before-i-die-in-nola/ and also in this book.

Ms. Chang describes why she was inspired to start this project, and how it grew to be emulated in hundreds of similar installations around the world. The book is composed mostly of photographs of her project and the many others that followed. Ms. Chang begins the book with her own project, then spotlights dozens of similar projects from around the world. She concludes with a chapter "By the Numbers" that provides a number of statistics about the project, and instructions on how to create a similar wall. This was a fascinating and fun book to read; I particularly liked reading about the people who lead efforts in various locations to create similar walls. I recommend Before I Die to anyone who is interested in public art or community projects.

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