This Artist Turns Guns into Musical Instruments

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Pedro Reyes says being Mexican is like living in an apartment where an upstairs neighbor has a leaking swimming pool.

“Just what is leaking,” says Reyes, “is hundreds of thousands of guns.”

He wants people to think about the availability of guns in the United States, and the impact that has in Mexico.

At the University of South Florida in Tampa, he recently held a series of workshops and a performance, using theater to encourage a discussion about guns. It’s called “Legislative Theater,” a style of performance pioneered in Latin America in the 1960s to influence social change.

In Tampa, Reyes called his project “The Amendment to the Amendment.” Specifically, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms. Reyes asks his actors and the audience to consider if there are possible changes that might improve the amendment

Reyes believes art should address social issues like gun violence, even when they’re difficult and controversial. “We have to be allowed to ask questions,” he says. “If you are not allowed to ask questions, you are not free.”

Reyes also addresses the issue of gun violence in another way, by using guns themselves. His first project began in 2007 in the Mexican city of Culiacan. As part of a campaign to curb shootings, the city collected 1,527 guns. He used them to create art.

“Those 1,527 guns were melted and made into the same number of shovels,” he says. “So for every gun now, there’s a shovel. And with every shovel, we planted a tree.”

Now Reyes is working on a new project. It is one that transforms guns into something more musical.

An exhibition of the work is on display at the University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum. It’s called “Disarm,” and consists of guns that have been turned into musical instruments.
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