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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Rose’s ‘Light’ illuminates campus

Published: September 12, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

On Sept. 10., the Rose Art Museum kicked off its opening ceremony with the installation of “Light of Reason,” a sculpture created by Boston native and iconic artist Chris Burden. This ceremony was attended by hundreds of people and professional artists who came to witness the lightning of the lampposts. The event also included food trucks and music by Brandeis’ Lydian String Quartet and indie band The Antlers.

The sculpture is inspired by Justice Louis D. Brandeis’ famous quote: “If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our mind be bold.” According to President Fred Lawrence, “The lights serve as an emblem, a beacon of light guiding our reason and challenging ourselves every day to let our minds be bold.” The structure literally and symbolically connects the Rose with campus, in order to connect our energies and future to the arts—one of the most integral aspects of Brandeis.

Burden provided the audience with a sort of background of his piece, remarking on the fact that the lamps are almost antiques. They are 95 years old and were originally placed in Los Angeles County Museum of Art as part of a public artwork piece called “Urban Light.” This old display was much larger and included 202 antique street lamps. The sculpture has now been renovated. Victorian lampposts and concrete benches stand arranged to represent the three torches, three hills and three Hebrew letters in the Brandeis University seal.

The lampposts will now resonate throughout the university every time someone walks by. In this sense, it engages with the constant campus and community activity.

During the ceremony, President Lawrence pointed to his right, acknowledging the 50 students who gathered around the right side of the sculpture, with tape on their mouths. They held signs, some of which read, “Sexual Violence = Injustice” and “Shed Light on the Truth of Sexual Assault,” along with many other criticisms designed to shed light on the university’s handling of sexual misconduct.

Lawrence, welcoming the protest, stood as a self-professed advocate. “Let me just say, someone who has spent a career studying, arguing for and combating the treatment and response to bias-motivated violence and hate crimes in this society, and particularly gender motivated violence, sexual misconduct and sexual violence will never be condoned on this campus and has no place on this campus,” he stated.

However, some students were still unsatisfied, as one person in the crowd complained, “What are you going to do about the situation?” Additionally, at the end of the ceremony, the protesters offered to give Lawrence the demonstration posters, to which he replied “I’m sorry, I’m actually on my way to a reception and can’t take them.”

Mostly, “The Light of Reason” is intended to create a principle of community at the university for generations to come. President Fred Lawrence already started the tradition at the beginning of Orientation where incoming first-years gathered at the sculpture each holding candles. He mentions that most universities aren’t able to pull this kind of stunt of because of how “corny” it is, but “this is what Brandeis is all about.”

The lights were finally turned on after the speeches ended. A huge round of applause was heard, and then the string quartet played a very energetic piece full of high-pitched violin riffs, harmonies and suspenseful melodies that kept the crowd intrigued.

This sculpture creates a sort of representation of vivacity, sunshine and a bright future—for both the students and for the school.