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"Shovels for pistols" at the Lyon Biennale, 2009. Via Wikipedia. 
"Shovels for pistols" at the Lyon Biennale, 2009. Via Wikipedia.

Shovels for Guns: Weapons also have a second chance

Mexican artist Pedro Reyes collects weapons and transforms them into objects that create life instead of destroying it.

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Failures do not exist, says artist Pedro Reyes, 47, for whom the notion of error in our modern culture is a simple matter of perspective. Born in Mexico, a country where a hundred murders are reported every day—especially in cities like Juarez or Culiacan, central trenches of the drug war—, Reyes believes that every object that harvests and destroys life has a second chance. 

Inspired by a trip he made to recycling plants where government officials turn seized weapons into raw materials, he created " Shovels for Guns," a work of art for which he collected 1,527 guns and rifles—half of them automatic and for military use—giving their owners a voucher to buy household appliances and electronics in exchange for giving them up.

Then, he and his collaborators rammed and crushed them during a public act and took them to a foundry, where the chemical process was carried out that ended up transforming them into shovels to plant trees, with a legend on the handle where each one of the stories is explained. 

"I think the purpose of art is to find ways to transform the most negative instincts into creative instincts," Reyes said. 

Later, these 1,527 shovels, which could be used to plant 1,527 trees, were sent to schools, museums or galleries such as the San Francisco Art Institute as an invitation to reverse the cycle of death through our gaze. 

"Desarme", de Pedro Reyes. Vía NGV.

From shootings to concerts

Used to traveling through dangerous areas of his country and with the firm conviction that art can reinvent the world, or at least improve a small piece of land, in Reyes's latest project, "Disarm", he transforms weapons into musical instruments that are played alone, programmed and operated by computer. So instead of shooting, there are concerts. 

The raw material for this project, which the artist defined in an interview with Vice as "metal redemption," are guns seized by the Mexican army from the cartels.

"I think the purpose of art is to find ways to transform the most negative instincts into creative instincts...", said the artist, who was surprised that the weapons not only produced harsh sounds but also soft like a lullaby. 

More primitive, like a shovel, or modern, like a computer-driven guitar, Pedro Reyes' "creation" weapons are proof that technology is neither good nor bad; it can serve both to cause destruction and misery, but also to sow life and make it dance.

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