Artist Turns Mexico's Drug War Guns Into Musical Instruments

Category: Media & Culture / Mar 04, 2013 4:15PM EDT
Mexican artist Pedro Reyes is converting instruments of death into instruments of music with a new project that is transforming firearms into guitars, flutes and drums. Reyes has transformed some 6,700 firearms seized and decommissioned in Ciudad Juarez, once Mexico's most violent city, into a collection of musical instruments which he terms "imagine". Reyes has sawed off gun barrels to different lengths in order for them to sound like marimbas while he has turned other pistol parts into cymbals. Reyes said he wanted to create something good out all the bloodshed and insecurity that have plagued Mexico in recent years. "The idea is to transform an agent of death into an agent of life. Why? Because weapons make people not want to go out into the street, hide and we have experienced an abandonment of public spaces in Mexico which makes our cities very unsafe. The same transformation we are making with these weapons is a transformation we would like to see in society," said Reyes. Reyes explained that in order to create the musical instruments, him and his team had to weld different weapons together in order to create different sounds, a process that he describes as very creative. "The moment when the army donated this metal to me, there had practically been a series of operations in which they (weapons) had been cut up and they had used the blowtorch on them etc so that they couldn't used as weapons again. From that moment on, it turns into a very interesting creative process where you start seeing what sounds you can extract from these different (weapon) parts and it's a very interesting sculpting process. It's like a collage where you combine parts from one (weapon) with another and you reach surprising results," explained Reyes. The decommissioned weapons used to make the instruments were handed over to Reyes by the Mexican government last year in Ciudad Juarez. For four years, Ciudad Juarez was convulsed by daily violence, becoming the murder capital of the world and a symbol of the Mexican government's struggle to reign in warring drug cartels and criminal gangs. "Imagine" is a continuation of an earlier effort, called "Palas por Pistolas" (Shovels for Guns), in which 1,527 weapons donated in the violence-plagued Mexican city of Culiacan were converted into 1,527 shovels, with which 1,527 trees were planted. A similar project by Colombian artist Cesar Lopez led to the creation of the "escopetarra," a guitar made from AK-47's. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has vowed to reduce the violence that soared after his predecessor Felipe Calderon launched an assault on drug cartels. Pena Nieto has pledged to create a new militarized police force and increase spending on security to cut crime.