Decommissioned weapons are usually destroyed, but a Mexican artist decided to do something more creative and life-affirming with a stockpile given to him. Earlier this year, Pedro Reyes recycled 6,700 confiscated guns into musical instruments for a project called Imagine. Revolvers, shotguns and machine guns previously used to kill became 50 wind, percussion and string instruments. They are currently on display at the Istanbul Design Biennal as part of Adhocracy exhibit.
The project was inspired by Palas for Pistolas, a 2008 project that transformed 1,527 weapons into 1,527 shovels to plant 1,527 trees in the botanical garden of Culiacán, a city in Western Mexico with a high rate of gun-related deaths. Earlier this year a government official contacted Reyes to offer him 6,700 weapons that had been confiscated in Ciudad Juarez, offering for him to keep the metal which would otherwise be buried. Pedro accepted the challenge and collaborated with six musicians who, over two weeks, performed the magic act of transforming them into instruments of beauty.
“It’s difficult to explain but the transformation was more than physical. It’s important to consider that many lives were taken with these weapons; as if a sort of exorcism was taking place the music expelled the demons they held, as well as being a requiem for lives lost,” says Pedro.
There have been 80,000 deaths by gunshot in Mexico in the last six years, a type of violence that affects other Latin American countries as well. Considering such terrifying statistics, besides being an original piece of art that combines welding and musical artisanship, Imagine has a strong political connotation. It is the expression of a dream of a world without weapons.
Pedro wonders what the logic behind Hollywood movies is, where actors cannot smoke cigarettes but can carry guns and appear sexy for it. “Living in a community free of guns ought to be a human right. Many liberties that we enjoy today were once considered utopian,” he says.
The instruments used in Imagine are on display at the Istanbul Design Biennial until December 12.