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Taking the Violence Out of Guns

Pedro Reyes is an artist whose work includes up-cycling artillery to make musical instruments. Having created his first series of up-cycled instruments for his Imagine project in 2012, Reyes has recently completed work on a second series, called Disarm.

While the former project revolves around a collection of stringed instruments, there are 50 in total, Disarm is composed of mechanical music instruments that can be programmed to play themselves. Both were created using artillery weapons that had been seized and destroyed by the Mexican army. Including, revolvers, rifles, shot-guns, and machine guns, whose forms remain visible in their new carnation.


Image source: Image Source: http://www.pedroreyes.net

Precisely 6700 weapons were used for the Imagine project alone, which otherwise were destined to be burned during a public destruction in Ciudad Juarez. Fortunately, the government contacted Reyes to inform him about the destruction and spoke to him of Palas por Pistolas, a campaign spawning from the city of Culiacán, designed to curb the trade of small weapons.

For Disarm, Reyes collaborated with a team of musicians and the Cocolab music studio in Mexico City. Their efforts resulted in eight instruments, which are just as much machines as they are musical works of art.  Armed with compositions beforehand, these musical machines can be programmed to perform on their own. Creating phantom melodies solely by the instruction of computers.


Image source: Image Source: http://www.pedroreyes.net


Image source: Image Source: http://www.pedroreyes.net

One may find haunting correlations between the clanking, mechanical sounds of the gun-fabricated instruments to that of the jarring throngs and staccatos that proceeded in their original state. Such can be seen as a merging of volatile fragments, fused now to constellate a tool of creation rather than destruction. It should not fail to remind us, however, that the same tools and materials that create beauty – in the form of melodies and fantastic visuals – can also revoke beauty, as comes with the premature relinquishment from life.

The series appears appropriately, then, at a time when gun-related deaths in the U.S. and Mexico remain high, and the debates of U.S. gun laws continue.

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