Photo: Cesar HaradaCan art save our cities? If it’s Candy Chang’s crowdsourced fantasy urban planning, then yeah, probably.
Chang’s “I Wish This Was” project challenges New Orleans residents to project their ideal neighborhood onto the still-struggling post-Katrina landscape. The installation is simple: just a bunch of blank “my name is”-style stickers that say “I Wish This Was.” What would you like to see in that boarded-up shop window? Food? Bikes? Tacos? Art supplies? A sex place? Fill in a sticker and slap it on up there.
It’s all fantasy, of course, and everyone knows it. But it gets people thinking about what their dream city would look like, and it probably gets them talking. Common desires start to emerge — bike shops, art, affordable fresh food. The project lets people call out for others to take an interest in the city, and it makes them take an interest too. As you read the stickers, an even-better-than-before New Orleans starts to shine through.
Chang’s not going to stop at building alternate-reality NoLA, though. Her other projects also promote community engagement and awareness. The “Before I Die” wall encourages New Orleans residents to share their personal goals as well as their urban development wishes — I loved the Ignatius J. Reilly-alike, who’s taking a break from the weenie cart to plot his trial for piracy. “Please Disturb” door-hangers encourage sharing among neighbors. And the impossibly wistful “this would be a nice place for a tree” stencil envisions a more arboreal New York Chinatown.