Art TED Fellows

My 10 favorite “Before I die” responses: Candy Chang celebrates the release of her book

Posted by: Karen Eng
Candy Chang's project "Before I Die" has become a global phenomenon. And now it is a book. Photo: Candy Chang

Candy Chang’s project “Before I Die” has become a global phenomenon. And now it is a book. Photo: Candy Chang

Candy Chang: Before I die I want to...Candy Chang: Before I die I want to...When artist and TED Fellow Candy Chang first installed “Before I Die” — a public artwork that invites passers-by to share their life’s wishes on the side of an abandoned New Orleans building — she had no idea that the project would become a global phenomenon. Over the last two and a half years, people have taken it upon themselves to create “Before I Die” walls in 62 countries around the world, in 26 languages. An incredible 32 new walls were created in 12 countries in the last month alone.

Today, Chang launches the Before I Die, the book, documenting walls around the world and featuring the stories of the people who made them. “It’s a reminder of our shared connections as we try to make sense of our lives,” Chang tells the TED Blog.

To celebrate the release of the book, she sent us 10 of her favorite responses of all time, with a little commentary about each. (Special thanks to Laine Kaplan-Levenson of NolaVie for first asking Candy this question.)

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Before I die I want to be completely myself (New Orleans, LA, USA). This was one of the first responses on the first “Before I Die” wall and it has stayed with me ever since. I hope to become more aware of who I am and what feels right for me as I grow and change.

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Before I die I want to stare at the stars with the people I love (Pohang City, South Korea). I find big comfort in watching Cosmos by Carl Sagan and looking at the stars. It always shifts me back to my center and reminds me of my place in the universe.

Before I die I want to own my own ice cream factory (Asunción, Paraguay). From a clever child or a wonderful adult.

Before I die I want to own my own ice cream factory (Asunción, Paraguay). From a clever child or a wonderful adult.

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Before I die I want to be a stripper and a nun at the same time (Santiago, Chile). We’re complex people.

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Before I die I want to see where my grandma grew up (Townsville, Australia). My parents emigrated from Taiwan to the US, so I lived far away from my grandparents. When I visited their homes in Taiwan, it was a profound experience. I’m still coming to comprehend how different our lives have been across three generations.

Before I die I want to have my own theme song (Johannesburg, South Africa). Me too. Music plays a big part in my life and helps set my aspirational mood. No theme song yet, but I've definitely compiled a soundtrack.

Before I die I want to have my own theme song (Johannesburg, South Africa). Me too. Music plays a big part in my life and helps set my aspirational mood. No theme song yet, but I’ve definitely compiled a soundtrack.

Before I die I want to overcome depression (Newport News, VA, USA). I've gone through dark periods of depression and existential crisis. It's comforting to know you're not alone and there is hope.

Before I die I want to overcome depression (Newport News, VA, USA). I’ve gone through dark periods of depression and an existential crisis. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone and there is hope.

Before I die I want to create a typeface of my own (Almaty, Kazakhstan). I am a design nerd and admire this design nerd's dream.

Before I die I want to create a typeface of my own (Almaty, Kazakhstan). I am a design nerd and admire this design nerd’s dream.

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Before I die I want to try lots of things (Brooklyn, NY, USA). I remember once worrying that if I didn’t focus on one thing, I would just be mediocre at a lot of things. I ended up on a meandering journey, and I’m glad I did, because all those experiences added up to a richer perspective.

Before I die I want to stop being afraid (Jerusalem, Israel). The Jungian analyst James Hollis once said, “In the end, we are only tiny frightened animals, doing our best to survive amid other tiny frightened animals.” That sounds a little grim but it always consoles me.

Before I die I want to stop being afraid (Jerusalem, Israel). The Jungian analyst James Hollis once said, “In the end, we are only tiny frightened animals, doing our best to survive amid other tiny frightened animals.” That sounds a little grim but it always consoles me.