Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Out of Pakistan

Out of Pakistan
2004- ongoing
Current state, tent 280x150x150 cm - tarpaulin 280 x 300 cm
38 Illustrations, 4 frames, 50cm x 70 cm each

Pakistan is producing 80% of sport balls sold in the world. Almost 75% of these are made in the city of Sialkot that services for more than 200 producers People flock to this city from far away to find work and produce the items that are marketed as "lifestyle" products.
The balls that are all hand made are manufactured in close to 2000 workshops. In the cities sheds and backyards are rafley 40000 men and women stitching away, each subcontracting to a Pakistani company.
Most modern footballs are stitched from 32 panels of waterproofed leather or plastic- 12 regular pentagons and 20 regular hexagons. The panels are Hand stitched; with pre punched stitching holes (combined with a latex bladder)- in this way 32 Panels are held by 720 stitches that a soccer ball need to be accomplished. A skilled worker needs three hours and 750 stitches to piece together the 32 separate panels with waxed thread with a maximum of three balls a day to deliver to the downtown manufacturer. His or her reward will be the equivalent of 1,80€ a day. Their handiwork will sell as quality product under a brand name that costs close to a 100€ in European stores.To make ends meet many families have been including their children into the manufacturing process.
In 1996 however, during the European championship, activists lobbied to end the use of child labor. This eventually led to the Atlanta Agreement, which seeks to reform the industry to eliminate the use of child labor in the production of balls. The outcome however is still controversial because the former integrated minors are now send to work in more dangerous working environments and the production lines are focused on factory facilitations often difficult to reach by the locals that have to travel every day and are disconnected with their social bounds. Throughout the last two years it got a lot worse, if you go today in a sport shop you will find that the trend clearly goes to glued soccer balls that are made in several East Asian countries.
Chinese competition is threatening from below, bombarding the market with cheap, mechanically stitched balls. The Thai producers are bearing down from above, whittling away at Khawaja's market share with their high-tech, glued product. His competitors have already scored a major victory. This year's World Cup stadiums will not be sporting hand-stitched Adidas balls from Sialkot. Glued balls from Thailand will be taking pride of place.
It takes strength to drive the needle through the thick plastic. I made the experience myself working on this project. For over five years I have been collecting old soccer balls, dismantling them, cutting out the pentagons and sewing the remaining pieces to become a tarpaulin. There is only a certain amount of pieces one can sew before ones fingertips say- that’s it. The collected items have all been played and wear the marks of heavy usage.
This project has been my long lasting ambition to create a sculpture that can serve as a refuge shelter entirely made of soccer balls. 2009 it will finally reach a surface size that will make it recognizable as a tent like shelter, a survival tent entirely manufactured by soccer balls.
I also used the inflatable bladders (usually made of either latex) to make a comfortable air mattress that guaranties a soft and cozy sleeping surface.
During this project I have also teamed up with the German artist/ illustrator Martin Markes that created accompanying illustrations to this project.
Our junction point originated in a newspaper article based on a story wherein German custom officials discovered two Pakistani minors in a cargo container full of sporting equipment at the international cargo airport in Frankfurt. Like media sources claimed, the two boys that have been employed, as ball stichers in the city of Sialkot were eager to travel to a country were the best soccer is played.
My sculptural work goes along with the 38 illustrations of M.Markes that contain a visual diary of their adventures journey.Between the evergreen lawn of the stadiums and the dusty ball factories exists a space in whom dreams and reality mix.. Both works invite you on a fantastic journey to the land and the people of whom we know little and can only assume.

Please check out the article by Uwe Buse, Football and chains http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,418139,00.html

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