The idea of the bucket list has emerged in the conversation about death and dying, the concern that we may reach the end of life without doing all that we wished to do. This week’s featured project allows one community to address the issue in a unique way.
As SevenPonds embraces the changing conversation around death and dying, we love to see new ways of breaking this “last taboo” in our culture. Street art has always been a creative way of bringing ideas to the public that may have not otherwise had a chance to see them. The “in-your-face” characteristic of it makes this a prime medium for addressing conversational taboos like death and dying.
Installation artist and urban planner Candy Chang created a piece in New Orleans that made passersby stop to reflect on their lives and their mortality. The project, Before I Die, uses an abandoned home as a makeshift blackboard, transforming “a neglected space into a constructive one where we can learn the hopes and aspirations of the people around us”. Losing a loved one, Chang explains on the project’s website, caused her to consider the question for herself, and it changed her life. She wanted to bring that to other people.
Chang used her instincts as an urban planner, her drive to create public spaces that reflect the public around them, to bring this piece to fruition. It offers passersby and residents of the neighborhood a moment to reflect not only on what is important to them in life, but also on what is important those around them, the people with whom they may interact everyday. “An interactive public art project”, the construction and design of Before I Die is very simple: an entire wall of the building is covered with scrap wood painted with chalkboard paint, the words BEFORE I DIE displayed boldly across the top, and blank white lines covering the remaining space, requiring public input for completion.
The response to this piece has been overwhelming. The lines were filled by the end of the first day after it was installed, and it has since been washed clean and refilled over and over again. Because of this initial response, Chang has developed new ideas to expand the project. Every response on the board is documented before it is washed away, and some will be included in a future book that expands on the project’s idea. She wants to expand to more cities with the project, and is calling for followers to suggest locations for future installations. In response to fans writing and asking how to re-create the piece in their own cities, a how-to kit is in the works, and is expected to be available by July 1st.
Before I Die is beautiful in its simplicity, a perfect example of the power of street art to make an impact on a community. The installation reaches out, allowing the community to anonymously address the “taboo” of death of dying by contemplating a fulfilling life.
photos courtesy of the artist.