New Orleans–based Candy Chang creates simple, analog messaging systems that allow strangers to share—anonymously and in public—their thoughts, memories, and dreams. Before I Die featured a fill-in-the-blank chalkboard affixed to an abandoned house—an invitation to passers-by to chalk in their bucket list; I Wish This Was used removable vinyl stickers to collect suggested uses for abandoned storefronts in New Orleans. The spirit of these anonymous commentaries may mirror the loose anonymity of Web-based communities, but the similarity stops there. Their physicality makes them a site-specific, collaborative intervention.
Public Art Review: What’s your working definition of placemaking?
Candy Chang: I think it’s a fancy word for a place that is cared for and is caring.
How do you personally go about the process of placemaking? What tools and techniques do you use?
There are a lot of ways the people around us can help improve our lives. We don’t bump into every neighbor, so a lot of wisdom never gets passed on, but we do share the same public spaces. So over the past few years I’ve tried out ways to share more with the people around me in public space, using simple tools like stickers, stencils, and chalk. They’re accessible to anyone walking by and they’re not very expensive, which puts you in an open-minded mood to keep learning, questioning, and experimenting, with low pressure.
Some of my small interventions have led to better-informed big ones. I Wish This Was became a prototype for Neighborland, a hybrid online/offline tool to help people join forces, build on ideas, and improve their communities together.