Essa Grayeb

Failure Speech

On June 9, 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser appeared on television and radio and informed the Egyptian people of the defeat in the war and of his resignation. For many, Nasser’s speech was the first hint at the extent of defeat and disillusionment with the pan-Arab vision he led.
By collecting, cataloging, and rearranging visual materials associated with the speech, the project turns the spotlight on the challenges of addressing a historical-political event through artistic action. Usually associated with the work of the historian who sets out to produce knowledge and interpretation, these practices examine the complex process of creating and emptying meanings in visual systems of representation.
The video weaves together dozens of scenes that feature the speech from Egyptian films and television series produced between 1972-2016. The excerpts were edited to reconstruct Nasser’s speech of resignation according to the original text. Nasser’s portrait series is in fact reproductions of portraits used on sets of Egyptian films – isolated and cut, enlarged to the dimensions of a normal portrait, printed on photo paper, framed based on the original framing, and re-mounted on the wall. This work resonates with a personal childhood memory of the portrait of Nasser on the wall of the living room of my grandmother’s house in the Galilee.