This series, “What I’ve Learned About Copies,” is a collection of small factoids or tidbits of random information with no effective use that I happened to encounter during the research for the exhibition “The Artist Is Present,” an upcoming show in Shanghai that questions the most sacred principles of art in the modern era: originality, truth, and identity. How can this trinity be reached through the act of repetition, and how can originals themselves be preserved through copies? Rule number two: Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.
If every one of us is the reincarnation of someone in the past, aren’t we all plagiarizing and being plagiarized at the same time?
Clone the Leader: Is Barack Obama the Reincarnation of Pharaoh Akhenaten?
Replicants and reincarnations have always held a certain fascination for web subcultures and conspiracy theorists. The idea that someone could be the embodiment of the soul of another already-existing human being is certainly alluring—especially if you follow the precepts of the doctrine of reincarnation, or if you believe that our progress on human cloning (i.e. the science-enthusiast version of reincarnation) is actually way more advanced than most people currently believe.
Reincarnation literally means “to be made flesh again.” According to this metaphysical concept, some essential part of a living being survives death to be reborn in a new body. This means that a new personality is developed during each life in the physical world, but some part of the self remains constant throughout the successive lives. Following the idea that there must be some similarities between the original soul and the human being hosting the “reincarnated self,” theories have flourished that consider lookalikes of every kind to be proof of a cloning or reincarnation process at work.
According to a number of theories that emerged a few years ago, former US President Barack Obama could actually be the reincarnation of Akhenaten, an Egyptian pharaoh whose reign dates from 1353 BC to 1336 BC. Supporting this thesis is the quite convincing physical resemblance between the sculpted representation of Akhenaten and Obama, not to mention a number of similarities between the political visions of the two rulers. Akhenaten was the first pharaoh to introduce the practice of worshipping one god, Aten (the Sun-Disk God, with Aten meaning “the sun”), eradicating polytheism.
According to this theory, the fact that Obama’s campaign logo symbolized a rising sun would be a clear reference to Akhenaten’s politics. Funnily enough, Michelle Obama is also said to look like someone close to Akhenaten—pictures show a certain resemblance to the pharaoh’s mother, Tiye. The two daughters of the Obamas, meanwhile, could be the reincarnations of Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti’s daughters: the code names of Malia Ann and Sasha Obama in the CIA files are Rosebud and Radiance, which might refer to the same flowers Akhenaten and Nefertiti worshipped before their declaration of the Sun God.
Obama is not the only leader targeted by the conspiracy theorists of reincarnation and cloning. In fact, the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, could apparently be the reincarnation of a well-known historical leader, Gaius Julius Caesar. The striking physical similarities between the two rulers would add to the pivotal role that “betrayal” played in both Caesar and Putin’s relationship with power. Balanced against this, of course, stands a previous theory, which states that the “real” Vladimir Putin was assassinated by a joint CIA/MI6 operation few years back, and replaced by a clone.
“The Artist Is Present” is a show curated by the artist Maurizio Cattelan in collaboration with Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, taking place at Shanghai’s Yuz Museum from October 10th to December 16th.
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