“Cricket to us was more than play, it was a worship in the summer sun.” - Edmund Blunden
That an English poet could summarize our own nation’s profuse passion for a sport so succinctly shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The British may have laid many aspects of India to colonial waste under their rule so many years ago, but even as they divided to conquer, they gave us a game so special it found a way to unite the whole country all over again—across every self-constructed point of separation be it caste, creed, colour or sex. Just a few days shy of the biggest cricket tournament in the world however, it seems apt to give credit where credit is due. You know, good karma and all of that. But the power of cricket needs no further explanation to anybody with an Indian heart. In truth, harnessing that kind of inspirational energy and finding new means to express it is what intrigued us most this time around, something that’s in vein with Nike’s directional philosophies as well.
Ardent pioneers in the field of innovation, Nike’s responsible for the fanciful new design that the new Indian cricket jersey embodies, made entirely out of 15 recycled plastic bottles no less. In keeping with their dedication to shiny, new forms of expression and innovation, we helped them narrow down a carefully curated selection to one fresh-faced artist who we believed could capture the spirit and soul of Indian cricket, and match it with a tangible, physical body. This is where Tyrell Valladares’ monumental installation—an ode to the new cricket jersey design and an embodiment of India’s unique fan spirit—at Kala Ghoda Arts festival comes in.
Working 18-hour shifts for nine days straight to put together this 800-kilo amalgamation of gears and sprockets, all coming together to stand upright and proud as the new Indian cricket jersey, it’s safe to say he ‘bled blue’ for the project. Fascinated by the function of the gear as a unit because “without its simple function most things wouldn’t run,” he almost unknowingly reiterated what we’ve known all along—every fan, every patron and every player are all equally important in keeping the sport’s machinations alive. And as we stood ant-like before it, we could hear the deafening stadium roar, see the sight of a euphoric India, teetering on the edge of frenzied jingoism.
Before it’s deconstructed this Sunday, just as the nation gets ready to face Pakistan on the pitch, we caught up with the artist for a tete-a-tete to find our own sprocket space in his work. Scroll on to scrape the flesh, and let it bleed its story.
Scroll on for the full script of our conversation with the artist:
1. What aspect of cricket in India inspires you the most?
The success of the team when it comes to the big tournaments. True, we haven’t had the best run of form of late, but the fact that the team is so successful when it matters, is what is most inspiring about it.
2. If you contextualise your thought behind this installation in a single line, how would you describe it?
Capturing the spirit of the nation with a sense of unity, teamwork and pride for the sport.
3. What does it mean to you to have an area like Kala Ghoda Festival to display your work and did it influence your thought process while creating this installation?
It’s really special! It’s a great sense of pride as well. I had to deliver a winner of a product. I knew all along that the scale of this task would be far from easy and was concerned about the final output but I had an idea of the overall dimensions and visualised it before it all came together.
4. At 800 kilos, was the weight of the installation in any way symbolic of the national pride the sport invokes, especially during important matches like this Sunday’s?
800 kgs is featherweight compared to what the 11 team members on the field have to endure. None of us can even comprehend the weight on their shoulders.
5. If you had to name 4 things that make cricket in India special, what would they be?
The 1983 World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar, IPL & Television.
6. Take us through the different stages in the process of creating this installation?
First, I had to collect all the 3500 sprockets, which was a task in itself. I had to shuffle through various scrap yards, garages and vendors from ghatkopar, thane, cst, kurla and grant road. Then the next major job was to clean all the grease from every sprocket, which actually went down to the very last one I had to weld onto the entire sculpture. Planning was another hard part because I had to basically visualize the entire jersey as a whole so I actually drew it on to the floor so that i could start creating a frame for it. Once the metal rod frame was complete, I then cut it up into 3 parts in order to transport it and take it along with me. I also had to weld each sprocket on all of which needed to be washed with soap, then with diesel and then scrubbed again with thinner in order to remove every bit of remaining grease so that the paint could catch on. I managed to finish the entire sculpture in just 9 days working till 3 am every night and starting at 9 am every day so that was a hectic ordeal in itself.
7. What do all the bits and pieces coming together symbolise for you?
It actually symbolizes the spirit of every fan and player that makes cricket more than just a game no matter what background, religion or creed they come from. Not to mention every Indian who lives outside the nation’s borders as well.
8. Has working on this project changed the way you think about cricket and the power of symbolism in the jersey in any way?
I feel like i’ve contributed towards creating a sense of excitement and pride leading up to the World Cup. The sky is the limit as far as creating excitement for this sport in India. Today, it’s this. Over the next month, the whole country will be wearing a Nike India jersey. I hope India goes on and on in the tournament and this can stay up for longer.
9. How do you think the ‘bleed blue’ philosophy of the new cricket jersey has translated into your design?
Bleed Blue kicked off during the last world cup in 2011, which India won. It’s linked to the Nike jersey. as well My philosophy is based on all components working together in unison through cogs, gearshifts etc. creating a DNA for cricket.
10. What does ‘Bleed Blue’ mean to you?
Hard work, blood, sweat, and tears to taste victory.
11. Tell us a little bit about your journey into installation art.
I was actually still a purser till a couple of days ago. The artist in me came out not so long ago when I started experimenting with smaller stuff. I used to experiment with stuff on my days off and one thing led to another. Didn’t ever think i would be creating an iconic piece with Nike one day.
12. Share some of your past installation works with us and tell us which ones have been particularly special to you and why?
I think all of my work and creations have been special to me in one way or another and has always reminded me of someone or something I have experienced in life. My love for gears and sprockets go way back since I used to continuously draw them out as a child. It’s just what a gear stands for as a unit that gets me going because without its simple function most things wouldn’t run. A piece that is really close to me would be the fallen angel I made for my girlfriend, Ulrica, as she has been my support system though all the hard times and good, and has always had the ability to lift me up and push me on to make a dream or goal reality.
13. Do you find this piece to be a departure from things you have done before or is it a continuation of themes you have explored in the past? What sets it apart?
The sheer scale sets this one apart. But no, all the things that i have done in the past have led up to this. My work is still very much in the realm of smaller art pieces but i’m now confident of putting up bigger projects.
14. What was most challenging about creating this piece?
Just cleaning all the sprockets to make them look brand new was a challenge. And then, of course, getting the entire sculpture to stay upright since I had never done something this massive. I had to wait till the end to actually see if it would stand or not so just going through that was a stressful moment.
Scroll on to view more images of the entire process, the installation’s making, and how it came to life: