Mexican Artist Upcycles Weapons into Self-Playing Instruments

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Artist Pedro Reyes created a xylophone from dismantled weapons. Photo: Pedro Reyes. Disarm, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist and LABOR.

Artist Pedro Reyes created a xylophone from dismantled weapons. Photo: Pedro Reyes. Disarm, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist and LABOR.

Pedro Reyes, a Mexico City–based artist, is no stranger to upcycling unique materials. The sculptor, whose past projects include melting old guns and re-forming them into shovels used to plant trees as well as turning discarded weapons into musical instruments, has taken his creative endeavors one step further with his most recent project, “Disarm.”

Disarm” is an ongoing project in which Pedro Reyes transforms weapons taken from drug cartels by the Mexican army into musical instruments. Some of them are self-playing, but many others have been played by musicians around the globe. So far more than a dozen different instruments have been created, from xylophones to berimbaus. Reyes was initially inspired to create art from old weapons after visiting a recycling facility where the army turned these weapons into raw materials. For this project, he used weapons from Ciudad Juárez that had been dismantled to prevent further violence.

Reyes intends for the project to be a critique of these weapons and for it to have a pacifist message.

“I believe that the purpose of art is to come up with ways to transform the most negative instincts into creative instincts. … I want my work to be useful for social and psychological transformation,” Reyes tells The Creators Project.

Reyes used old guns to create a functional guitar. Photo: Pedro Reyes. Disarm, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist and LABOR.

Reyes used old guns to create a functional guitar. Photo: Pedro Reyes. Disarm, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist and LABOR.

To create these unique pieces, Reyes collaborated with a group of musicians and the media studio Cocolab in Mexico City. As Reyes explains in a video about his work, “Disarm” combines sculpture, music and technology. The instruments are controlled by computers, allowing them to play music prepared ahead of time. While these instruments may not look or sound exactly like their standard counterparts, they create a wide variety of engaging sounds.

“Technology is neither good nor bad,” Reyes says in the video. “It all depends on how you use it.”

Reyes’ work has been shown in galleries around the world. You can learn more about his art at his website, and find out more about “Disarm” at The Creators Project.

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