Pedro Reyes

Music as a Medium for Sculpture


At the heart of the “future of audio” are people – inspired individuals who dare to give shape to their creative vision and artistic imagination. Decision makers who prefer to reach their audiences and customers through great audio. Audio lovers who work relentlessly on innovative projects, who redefine and recreate sound experiences that touch the very souls of their listeners. “People” is dedicated to all those musicians, artists, engineers, producers, decision makers, owners and audio designers who fill and shape our world with sensational sound.

Mexican artist Pedro Reyes (44) builds musical instruments out of rifles and other weapons confiscated in the drug war. Through his project "Disarm," he criticizes weapons manufacturers and reflects on music as a social experience.

Pedro Reyes, for your project “Disarm,” you built musical instruments out of weapons. What is your approach? Out of an instrument of death, I wanted to create something that gives life. As a sculptor, I am constantly reshaping material. My hope with "Disarm" is to trigger a psychological and societal transformation that mirrors the physical transformation of the weapons.

What kind of transformation? More than anything, I want to change the perception of weapons. In the media, in Hollywood movies and in video games, weapons are still sexy and cool. For me, though, they are something destructive, something that should be criticized.

What differentiates weapons from musical instruments? For me, music is the opposite of weapons. Weapons produce fear whereas music creates trust. Weapons divide, music unites. By building a flute out of a pistol or a violin from a revolver, I have created a radical shift between two poles: life and death, division and unity.

Where did you get the weapons? The Defense Ministry gave them to me. They were confiscated from criminals in Ciudad Juárez, a city that has become the symbol of the drug war.

Did the drug war have an influence on your project?The war is a business. But people often criticize the person who fires a weapon and not the industry that prospers by selling weapons. For me, however, the two are, at a minimum, equally responsible. “Disarm” is a project that criticizes the arms production industry.

The drug war has proven to be the wrong approach in the fight against drugs in Mexico. It has resulted in more deaths than the drugs themselves: 800 people die each year through drug consumption, whereas 12,000 die annually because of the drug war. The only one who profits from this war is the arms industry.

Musicians were also part of the “Disarm” project … Yes, they were very important and helped me a lot with the conception. More than anything, they helped make sure the instruments sounded like they were supposed to sound. The development of the project was a very transformative experience.

How did you get started? You had a pistol in your hand, and then… In the beginning, I was like a prehistoric human: I scratched, pounded and cut the metal to get sound out of it. I created a flute out of a pistol and a xylophone out of a rifle. You get different sounds out of pieces of metal depending on their length, so you can create an entire scale with all the notes. Together with the musicians who advised me, I transformed a piece of metal that had been engineered to kill into something that produces music.

„Music has the power to connect people.“

What role does music play in Mexico? In Mexico, but not just there, music creates peace. I have exhibited the project in more than 10 countries and have had positive feedback everywhere, whether in Italy, Turkey or the USA. I think music has the power to establish connections. When a band performs, all the people in the room are united by the same experience. Music has an unbelievable power, particularly these days, at a time when people tend to isolate themselves and stare at their mobile devices. Now more than ever, it is important to be connected to other people through common experiences.

Your project is an infinite source of new pieces of art… Yeah. The instruments are traveling around the world. Local musicians are playing them, using them in a concert or only for a single song. It is an inexhaustible enrichment: Every time someone uses the instruments, a new work of art is automatically created.

„Artists should not have a monopoly on art.“

So you believe that art should be accessible to all? Artists should not have a monopoly on art. Art is one of the most important human activities. I believe that everyone has the potential to create something. That’s why I am interested in active participation, because often, a work of art is only finished when it is used. Music instruments are a good example: They only come to life when somebody plays them.

„I see music as a material for sculptures.“

What projects are you working on at the moment? I am currently working on a new sculpture, which also involves sound. I am planning to build a bookshelf out of records. I bought lots and lots of LPs from poets and writers who read their works aloud.

I got the idea for the project when Sennheiser brought out their new wireless headphones. Reading tends to force people to sit still and use their eyes.

But with the new Sennheiser headphones, visitors will be able to walk freely around the exhibit and use their ears instead of their eyes. The snippets that are read aloud will accompany them through the exhibit.

What is your vision for the future of music? I am primarily interested in the social experiences that can be produced by music. I can synchronize people with music or I can get them to have a variety of experiences at the same time. More than anything, though, I see music as a material I can use for my sculptures. In the same way that you can work with stone or metal, you can also work with audio technologies. And the exciting thing is: New technologies are constantly being developed, so it’s always inspiring.

Do you have a favorite club? In general, I like places with a long history. My favorite club is probably Patrick Miller in Mexico City. It is a place where Hi-NRG, electronic dance music, is played. The club has home-audio speakers and laser shows. People from all classes meet up there and dance together with strange gyrations. The Patrick Miller is a place where office workers can go wild for a night.