Of Liminal Substitutes

Of Liminal Substitutes is a series of works developed around a little-known figure named Latif Yahia, who used to be the body double for Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, who was killed in 2003. In the 1980s, Yahia was given training and plastic surgery so he would look, move, and speak exactly like Uday Hussein. He would then appear in public at times when it was too dangerous for the real Uday to do so. During the first Gulf War, Yahia managed to escape from Iraq; he fled to Vienna, where he went into hiding. When, after several years, Austria refused to grant him permanent asylum, he started drifting through Europe and eventually ended up in Ireland, where he set up a private detective agency. In 1995, he began actively mediating his own life story by publishing his autobiography. After the second invasion of Iraq, he became a frequently sought-after commentator for Western media. In 2011, he became involved in a film project about his life, coaching the actor that was assigned to play him – his body double, as it were – so a kind of inverted mimicry took place. In 2012, two journalists, Eoin Butler from the Irish Times and Ed Caesar from the London-based Sunday Times, released a number of texts that question Yahia’s various claims, including even his claim that he was Uday Hussein’s body double. They noted that much of Yahia’s activity since leaving Iraq in 1992 has not been verified by the media.