April 18th, 2011 By EVAN SERNOFFSKY | News | Posted In: Activism, Politics

PSU Students Use Sunflower Seeds to Protest Arrest of Chinese Artist

     
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Two Portland State University students held an art performance today in support of Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist who was detained by his own government on April 3

“We wanted to raise awareness for people who spoke out against the Chinese government and were arrested,” said Sean Green, a 26-year-old graduate student at PSU. “I was really upset with what was happening with Weiwei. I wanted to do something.”

At 10 am Green and sophomore philosophy student Katie Slayden filled a 6-foot-wide wooden outline of China with black sunflower seeds on the floor of the east lobby in Smith Memorial Student Union at PSU. Amid the black seeds, stencils filled with red seeds spelled out “FREE WEIWEI.”

According to the Guardian, demonstrators all over the world sat outside Chinese embassies on Sunday demanding the release of Weiwei.

What the Chinese government is doing to political activists and artists is extreme censorship, Slayden said.

After completing their project, Green and Slayden scooped the seeds up and walked to an adjacent building where they filled a smaller mold of China surrounded by rice and small candles. With help from the crowd, they lit the candles and stood back to admire their masterpiece.

“We did this because Weiwei is an artist and we were inspired by his work,” Green said. “I saw Weiwei’s exhibit called “Sunflower Seeds” at the Tate modern in London, and I knew that I wanted to do something with sunflower seeds.”

Green and Slayden said they spent $115 on materials for their piece. They had a jar asking for donations with a few dollar bills in it, and a plastic bag with about $2 in change stuffed inside.

 

 
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