Ai Weiwei Gets a Haircut in Greek Refugee Camp

Ai is now opting for more subtle gestures.

A migrant barber shaves Ai Weiwei's head at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the Greek village of Idomeni on March 17, 2016.
Photo: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP/Getty Images.

As part of his ongoing mission to draw attention to the plight of refugees, there’s few places where Ai Weiwei won’t go.

After having made headlines recently for staging a tasteless stunt at the Cinema for Peace Gala in Berlin­—in which celebrities like Charlize Theron and Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova donned emergency blankets over their designer frocks for a selfie—or for recreating the tragic image of drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, it seems that Ai is back at it, albeit on a more subtle note.

AFP reports that yesterday, Ai got a very public haircut from a migrant barber at the Greek border camp of Idomeni.

“I needed a haircut … And of course, it is obviously symbolic. Anything we do is symbolic,” Ai told the press agency. “For me that means I have permanently [left] some of my hairs on this ground and they will never come back to me.”

No, they won’t.

Simplistic as this gesture may be, following Ai’s rather literal recent tactics, like attaching 14,000 life jackets used by refugees to Berlin’s Konzerthaus concert hall, the conceit of leaving locks of hair on European border soil aims to be rather poetic, even if a little befuddling.

But this isn’t the only action that Ai has staged during his stay at Idomeni, a refugee camp on the Greek-Macedonian border where 14,000 refugees are currently stranded in dire conditions after Macedonia and other Balkan nations closed their borders.

Last Saturday, the famous Chinese dissident artist poignantly set up a white grand piano in the muddy refugee camp, giving 24-year-old Nour Alkhzam, a young Syrian pianist, the chance to play the piano for the first time in three years.

Ai Weiwei holds up a plastic sheet to protect Syrian pianist Nour Alkhzam from the rain. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Ai Weiwei holds up a plastic sheet to protect Syrian pianist Nour Alkhzam from the rain.
Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

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