"I believe that the purpose of art is to come up with ways to transform our most negative instincts into creative instincts."--Pedro Reyes
In 2008, artist Pedro Reyes implemented a project in the city of Culiacán (Mexico) by which he campaigned for voluntary donation of weapons, which could be exchanged for a coupon that local stores would honor for domestic appliances or electronics. He ended up collecting 1527 weapons, 40% of which were military, high-powered automatic weapons. The weapons were crushed, melted, and sent to a factory to create exactly 1527 shovels. The shovels were then distributed to schools and other institutions to be used for the planting of 1527 trees.
Through this project, he was exploring the transformation--alchemical, really--of an "agent of death" into an "agent of life." And then someone told him about a mass of weapons that had not been voluntarily given up, but rather taken in the raids and arrests of cartel members.
These weapons had been dismantled (made unusable) and were scheduled to be buried, but Reyes had in mind another alchemical project, instead. A massive project, a study of sound and technology as well as sculpture.
He says, "I'm taking this piece of metal, this pistol, which represents our instinct of killing each other, and I'm turning it into a (musical) instrument which is, ultimately, the most sophisticated form of communication on the planet."
It occurs to me that as a musician, it would be amazing to have made your own instrument, a unique instrument for yourself, which is also a sculpture--not factory-made, not something you dumped a bunch of money on-- which would also serve as a talisman, really. What could have claimed your life, what promised only horror, now you have transformed, as if in a lucid dream, into a luminous voice that expresses an entirely different intention. The instrument itself represents evolution, and each time you picked it up, there would be a sense of reverence, a sense of possibility, and a sense of your own magical power.
Enjoy the video!
Mr. Reyes will be giving a talk on this project at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA on October 5, from 5-7 PM.