The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) invited me to create a permanent installation for their rooftop garden, a piece that would honor the legacies of LSE’s most distinguished alumni; Dr. Mayling Birney was first on their list.
Dr. Mayling Birney was a leading figure in the study of Chinese governance and the consequences and causes of corruption. In recognition of her research, transparency—an antithesis of corruption—is a core visual quality of this interactive installation. The title, Scholar’s Rock, references practices of enquiry, Chinese traditions, an artistic genre, and Dr. Birney’s rock and mineral acquisitions.
At times, the sculpture’s amorphous, textural light refractions mirror the perforated surfaces of the classical scholar’s stones that have been collected, prized, and showcased in Chinese gardens for centuries. As objects of contemplation and vehicles for cultivation, the stones’ significance embodies the London School of Economics and Political Science’s motto rerum cognoscere causas. Installing Scholar’s Rock on the rooftop terrace garden of a university that champions investigation marries ritual with social and intellectual evolution.
In the space, the artwork’s physical properties are in direct conversation with LSE. The way Scholar’s Rock responds to and interacts with light represents LSE’s global impact and its commitment to diversity. When light hits, an array of colors shimmer on the ground and the walls. In open space, light is limitless. The LSE network functions similarly in that its meaningful worldwide influence is endlessly lively. The sculpture also transforms as people and the sun change positions—a nod to how LSE adapts in an ever-changing world.
Scholar’s Rock engages current members on campus who enter the space by presenting reflection as a sensory experience and as a form of thought. It asks that viewers analyze their position—physically, politically, and philosophically. It becomes a place where diverse viewpoints convene to engage in illuminating debates. Ultimately, Scholar’s Rock is a site that captures the spark of intellectual and humanitarian passion by encouraging contemplation and examination. As minds and hearts grow, we begin to see each other and ourselves in new light. This is how legacies come to be.