TUNCA’s second solo exhibition at Galerist, opening on November 11, 2021 titled ‘Misfortunes and New Joys’, is the culmination of research and dialogue that spans over two years. Curated by Serra Yentürk, the exhibition adds further insight into the artist’s practice where he pursues the traces of historical figures, places and incidents through the ephemera he collects from second hand booksellers or auctions. The exhibition originated out of six photographs of a boxer figure found by the artist several years ago at an auction, and it remains unclear how these photographs, later found to have been taken in Georg Gerlach’s Berlin studio in the 1910s, ended up in Istanbul.
By recreating these photographs of the boxer Sabri Mahir as large-scale drawings with his signature charcoal medium on paper, the artist invites viewers to explore this enigmatic figure. That said, these photographs remain insufficient in revealing much about Mahir’s story although they were originally intended to be souvenir postcards, suggesting that the person documented in the photographs held (or intended to hold) historical significance. Turning into the protagonist of a myth through an assortment of information asserted by an insatiable desire to write history, which is gradually accepted as historical fact through time, Sabri Mahir is condemned to a popular culture narrative where reality is distorted.
Born a few years before Sabri Mahir, the boxer-poet Arthur Cravan, whose cause of death also remains ambiguous, but who is understood to have had a similar temperament with Mahir, plays a complementary and illustrative role in defining the former’s character throughout the exhibition. Cravan, who was renowned in the arts and literature circles of the period for his eccentric and provocative manners, is included in the exhibition with excerpts from his poems hung beside portraits of Mahir, which blur the borders between these two characters, helping them intermingle. In terms of this intentional manipulation, one of the most striking works in the exhibition is the WANTED poster displayed at the entrance;.By appropriating the poster, which is in reality a historical document pertaining to Cravan, TUNCA is compounding the story of Mahir that is already based upon a fictional narrative.
The video titled Sweet Science, featuring a composition by Ferrucio Bussoni, helps to further reinforce the theme of multiple identities that unite Mahir and Cravan’s stories. Appearing in the video as a boxer himself, TUNCA musters all the factual and speculative information gathered during the research stage of the exhibition into a performative act, relieving it of the weight of history.
Deriving its title from Cravan’s autobiographic text, ‘Misfortunes and New Joys’ at Galerist is through December 11, 2021.