Guns Don't Kill People. Not These Ones By Pedro Reyes. These Guns Make Music!

Posted by Billyjam, October 23, 2012 09:20am | Post a Comment

To answer that question posed in Edwin Starr's 1970 number one hit single "War: What is It Good For?"
I propose two things good about war: Number 1: all of the former military bases such as Governors Island in New York or Angel Island in the Bay Area, that have been transformed into state, city or public park lands. And number 2 all of the weapons (from the drug war) that have been magically altered and turned into musical instruments like the violin-like, string instrument pictured above that was ingeniously crafted out of four hand guns, the barrel of a shotgun, and some other parts taken off recycled firearms. This ingenious weapon into musical instrument transformation is the handiwork of Mexican artist Pedro Reyes who has crafted an entire orchestra's worth of instruments out of old guns for what he dubbed the Imagine project.

And Reyes doesn't simply make musical instruments out of old weapons. He is also making a strong socio/political statement about the out-of-control use of illegal guns and the high crime rate in his country; mostly connected with drug cartels' grip on Mexican society. For his unique project Reyes first began working with Palas Por Pistolas (shovels for guns) which was a gun exchange campaign geared towards the residents of the crime ridden western Mexican city of Culiacán.

The program, somewhat similar in its theme to those previously carried out in New York City, invited people to voluntarily donate illegal weapons in exchange for coupons that were redeemable at local stores for appliances and electronics. However unlike the NYC program, where the illegal guns were simply destroyed, the Mexican program made the weapons into something new and productive.  The program took about 1500 old firearms which were melted in a foundry and then cast into shovels which were in turn distributed to a number of institutions for adults and children to participate in the action of planting a tree for every gun gathered.


                             Palas por pistolas from Palas x Pistolas on Vimeo.

The Mexican government got word of the Palas Por Pistolas project which directly led to the more recent guns-to-musical-instruments Imagine project after they contacted Reyes to invite him to do something with a whole new batch of confiscated firearms they had on hand. For the Imagine project Reyes created a set of 50 musical instruments out of a variety of firearms (including everything from small handguns and revolvers to heavy duty machine guns). The confiscated weapons all came from the crime ridden city of Ciudad Juarez in the north of Mexico near the US border (not far from El Paso, TX) which, in 2009, had the unenvious distinction of been named "the most violent zone in the world outside of declared war zones."

For the Imagine project, with the close assistance of six musicians, Reyes worked non-stop for two weeks meticulously transforming the confiscated firearms into a fully functioning orchestra that included a drum kit, a guitar, and a flute (yes, you guessed it, made from the long metal barrel of a shotgun). These unique musical instruments are currently on exhibit at the Istanbul Design Biennial 2012  (which began two weeks ago and runs through December 12th) as part of the Adhocracy Exhibition that is curated by Joseph Grima. The photos included in this Amoeblog come courtesy of the websites DesignBoom and Junk Culture.

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