Sep 22, 2011

PROFILE | Candy Chang

Candy Chang, Before I Die, February 2011-present

Candy Chang is a contemporary public installation artist, known for sparking creative interaction in communities. Originally from Taiwan, she also received a BS in Architecture, a BFA in Graphic Design, and a Masters in Urban Planning from Columbia University. Well rounded? I'd say so! Chang's passion is providing a new level of comfort to cities in need of a facelift, such as New Orleans. The intended outcome? Communication with a side of change.  As a resident of NOLA, Chang takes pride in providing an artistic outlet for other residents to voice their otherwise-unheard opinions.
Perhaps her most popular installation (and the one that caught my eye right away) is the Before I Die wall in New Orleans. Chang explains how this idea came to be:
“… over the course of a few months, a lot of personal tragedy happened to me and the people in my life. We each lost someone we loved very much… I became very aware that life is brief and tender and not to be delayed. I thought hard about what was really important to me and realized that I want to enjoy more cities with the people I love. I also realized my heart was in public space and experimenting with ways to make cities better. So I ended my job, moved to New Orleans, co-founded a civic design studio called Civic Center, and started to fool around with public space again.”
Seeing as how it is easy to get distracted and caught up in the day-to-day chaos of life, I find this project the perfect opportunity to reconnect with oneself and focus on what really matters. Chang allows for an improvement of our personal well-beings and our physical spaces. What is even more compelling is the fact that such a simple idea can have a chain reaction and spark some serious reflection between the residents of New Orleans. Chang mentions that although the city has rebuilt after hurricane Katrina, there is an abundance of blighted properties within walking distance of her own home. The challenge she set for herself was, first and foremost, to create something nice for her neighborhood, while providing an outlet for residents of all ages. “I turned the side of this abandoned house in my neighborhood into a giant chalkboard to invite people to share what is important to them in public space.”

Candy Chang, Before I Die, February 2011-present
Candy Chang, Before I Die, February 2011-present
What I enjoy most about this installation is the transformation that took place. Chang employed a neglected space and turned it into a constructive one. It’s available to the masses (within NOLA) and has a persona of its own. Before I Die allows for and revolves around public interaction. It is a learning experience, as well. Residents are given the opportunity to not only voice their own hopes and aspirations, but also view those of their fellow neighbors. I believe Chang successfully tackled her challenge and has impacted a community by highlighting the question of “what’s important to you?” 

Another one of Chang’s installations is Sidewalk Psychiatry. Seen around New York City, Chang uses stencils and temporary spray-chalk to pose critical questions along the pavements. What better way to contemplate life’s everyday questions than while in transit to school or work? Chang keeps her work lighthearted:
“Pedestrians in the city often find themselves walking in deep thought. A routine trip can prompt reflections on everything from future goals to last night’s dinner conversation. As people sacrifice personal time for hectic schedules, these casual occasions for reflection become all the more important. Now your daily ponderings and emotional problems can be prodded and treated on the go – and, best of all, it’s free of charge!”
Candy Chang, Sidewalk Psychiatry, temporary spray-chalk, stencil, NYC pavement

Candy Chang, Sidewalk Psychiatry, temporary spray-chalk, stencil, NYC pavement
Chang keeps the idea simple, yet it also has a profound effect on people. Sidewalk Psychiatry allows for an introspective view into one’s personal life. I enjoy that Chang’s work doesn’t take on a graffiti feel to it. It is simple and classy and, perhaps most interesting, temporary. Not only does Chang encourage self-evaluation again, but she successfully creates conversations between the city and its residents. 

- Kerri Pearson


Contributor said...

I love this artist! I am so glad someone did a post over her! I just wish you had talked more on a few other pieces instead of just the one!

- Erin Davis

Contributor said...
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Contributor said...

Having lived in New Orleans my entire life up until 2005 I can appreciate what Chang is trying to do here. The end of the statement has the ability to be as light hearted or gut wrenching as the viewer allows it to be. The title “Before I Die” is a little ironic in the sense that lots of people lost loved ones and this is plastered on the side of an incredibly run down flooded post-Katrina home. But then again it wouldn’t be the strangest thing a person could come across in New Orleans. There are a lot of misconceptions about New Orleans, more so after Katrina but one thing I do know is that graffiti saying “We remember 2/7/2010”, “All you need is love” and works like this are always well received.

On a side note I wish you could have added an extra picture or two of what the house originally looked like but other than that great post!

-Yael Palma

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