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.