Right now at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, two people at a time are sitting for hour-long silent stints in protest of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s imprisonment. The protest began yesterday at 11 a.m. and will continue until 11 a.m. today.

The internationally acclaimed artist, perhaps best known for his direction of the “Bird’s Nest” stadium used in the Beijing Olympics, was detained April 3 in Beijing as he tried to get on a plane to Hong Kong. The reasons for his arrest are unclear; the arrest has created a stir in the international art community.

The local museum recently acquired Weiwei’s “Marble Chair” sculpture, providing a poignant setting for the protest. You can see images of the sit-in on the MCASD Facebook page.

Here’s an interview from NBC San Diego’s The Feast, where the museum’s chief curator, Kathryn Kanjo, explains the piece the museum acquired and describes Weiwei’s significance as an artist. Also featured in the clip is local artist (and friend of mine) Wes Bruce, who sat in the first shift of the museum’s protest:

View more videos at: http://www.thefeast.com.

For a week after the protest ends this morning, visitors to the museum will be able sit in the chairs for a minute or for an hour.

Weiwei is not only a sculptor; he also works in installation, photography and performance. His work references well-known Chinese forms like urns, vases and, in this case, chairs, as a way of commenting on China’s history and present. Here’s more about the sculpture series “Marble Chair” — the museum acquired two:

In Marble Chair, he carves a familiar yokeback chair out of a single block of marble. This startling translation and memorializing of a piece of furniture raises questions of history, memory, and modernization. Marble Chair suggests that the rush of progress takes its toll not only on the people, but also on the culture that becomes lost among the change. The empty chair evokes the absent figure, an effect made more disturbing due to the artist’s recent incarceration by the Chinese government.

I am the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531. Or you can keep up with me on Twitter @kellyrbennett or on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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