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Brazilian artist Muniz examines the soccer ball

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 8, 2014 at 11:48 am •  Published: June 8, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Vik Muniz has made images out of everything from sugar to confetti to trash, and with World Cup fever reaching a rolling boil in his native Brazil, the artist has turned his attentions to the object of his nation's collective obsession, the soccer ball.

Muniz, who starred in the Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary "Waste Land," about re-creating masterpiece paintings out of garbage in a Rio de Janeiro landfill, is making his directorial debut with "This Is Not a Ball," a documentary that chronicles his quest to "draw" with soccer balls.

Shot in nine countries over nine months, the film is a meditation on the creative process and an intellectual inquiry into the history of the ball and the role it plays in societies across the globe.

"I am not an athlete — I'm terribly inept at sport, which is probably why I became an artist," Muniz said at his Rio de Janeiro studio.

The idea behind the project was to place 10,000 soccer balls on the pitch of Mexico City's Azteca Stadium in such a way that when photographed from air they'd form a recognizable image. Muniz has used a similar technique throughout his career, "drawing" portraits of sugar cane workers out of sugar, reproducing an image of action painter Jackson Pollack out of chocolate syrup and recreating Caravaggio's Medusa in spaghetti and tomato sauce. But soccer balls presented their own challenges, he said.

First, the 52-year-old Muniz had to create his own ball, bone white on one side and pitch black on the other, to act as a sort of pixel. But the real difficulty was to decide what to draw with the balls, and the movie chronicles Muniz's struggle to find a soccer-related image that didn't feel like the logo of a sportswear label.

Although soccer has a global following, Muniz said, it's all but absent in fine art — begging the question, "Why are we artists missing out on a subject that's so rich and complex?"

In a bid to answer the question, Muniz delves into the history of not only the ball, but the sphere itself, interviewing astronomers from Harvard University and New York City's Hayden Planetarium about the great round clouds of gas that formed after the Big Bang. He also talks to the head of M.I.T.'s self-assembly lab about the spherical shapes of viruses, bacteria and carbon atoms.

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