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His art often functions as a critique of the Chinese government, but what kind of message is Ai Weiwei trying to send by giving people bad haircuts?

Last week, blogger Anthony Tao found himself on the receiving end of electric clippers wielded by the dissident Chinese artist — who was the subject of Alison Klayman’s Oscar-nominated 2012 documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry — at a restaurant in the Bejing suburb of Caochangdi. In a post about the event, Tao recalls asking Ai what kind of look he should expect. Ai’s answer: “The kind that will make you want to cry… It won’t be boring.”

The amateur barber’s work isn’t boring (nor is it good) but it becomes clear that Tao’s stylized new coiffure is more likely the result of a creative choice, rather than a lack of experience. “I’ve given hundreds,” Ai tells Tao of his reputation for giving notoriously bad haircuts. “I could make a book out of it.”

Why did Tao volunteer for what he must have known would be a hack job?

The blogger writes: “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.”

Watch the video of Tao’s hair makeover — in which the world-renowned chef Jose Andres can be heard lamenting that, while Ai demonstrates the art of barbering, the special dinner he has prepared for him is getting cold — after the jump.

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