On Ai Weiwei as Barber

By James Fallows

I mentioned two days ago that I had encountered famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (and famous Spanish/American chef Jose Andres) in the evening in Beijing. I didn't mention that a few minutes after the picture I used was taken, I had seen Ai Weiwei giving a highly stylized haircut to someone in the courtyard outside a restaurant.


I didn't talk to or recognize the man getting the haircut, but I see today that it was Anthony Tao of the Beijing Cream site. He has posted a charmingĀ blog account of the whole event, complete with video of the haircut and before-and-after photos:

Ai-Weiwei-cut-my-hair-1.jpg

The video shows a rich interaction among Ai Weiwei, Jose Andres, the haircut subject Anthony Tao, and the crowd of onlookers (which for about half a second includes me in the background). I mention this as a followup and also because it has a very nice appreciation of Ai Weiwei's current role in China. Sample:
Ai Weiwei, oversized personality that he is, must understand the cult and farce of celebrity and those who would fawn in the face of it. At the risk of reading way too much into this, perhaps that's the wry, mischievous reasoning behind his deliberately woeful haircuts: because he knows you -- you - will appreciate it, since it came from him. It's why you'll wear it for a day, a week, a month after the fact, looking ridiculous because no one else understands the context. You know, however. You got a haircut from Ai Weiwei.

The past week in China has been as packed and enlightening as any comparable span I've spent anywhere, but since I have to get up in a few hours for a very early-morning (China time) muster, I will wait until tomorrow to begin a description.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/05/on-ai-weiwei-as-barber/275750/