Candy Chang’s Before I Die

Meet the Artists of No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man

This is a detail of a chalkboard with writing on it by Candy Chang.

Candy Chang, Before I Die. Photo by Candy Chang. 

On view from March 30, 2018 to September 16, 2018

Drawing upon Michel de Montaigne’s proposition that “to philosophize is to learn to die,” the Before I Die project captures the ways we grapple with mortality and meaning as a community. After the death of a loved one, artist Candy Chang created the first wall on an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans. Since then, nearly four thousand such walls have been created in seventy‐eight countries, including China, Iran, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa. These participatory installations serve as memento mori—chances for individuals to reflect upon mortality with neighbors and passers-by. Each response represents an individual’s unique desires and values and each wall offers a snapshot of our shared anxieties and hopes, our collective joys and struggles. By creating spaces where we can share our inner lives in public, Before I Die reimagines the walls of our cities as places where we can remember what really matters in an age of increasing distraction and flux. 

In 2012, a version of the project appeared in Black Rock City, installed by Susan Moore with help from Lisa Gorman, Richard Johnson, and Maria Partridge.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man brings the large-scale, participatory work from this desert gathering to the nation’s capital for the first time. The exhibition takes over the entire Renwick Gallery building and surrounding Golden Triangle neighborhood, bringing alive the maker culture and creative spirit of this cultural movement.