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This script was branded on an over-sized T-Shirt hanging in the Carpenter Center at Harvard for exhibition ad usum “to be used” by Pedro Reyes.

Reading Doris Sommers, The Work of Art in the World, got me searching for examples of Pedro Reyes work, who is the epitome of an artist who disarms us with both the beauty of his work and his process which is often spiritually transformative. He is the type of artist limeSHIFT strives to engage in order to create change within organizations and in communities; his work is not just sculptural but also engaging and he strives for it to be participatory and useful for social and psychological transformation.

Take his installation Palas por pistolas (Guns into Shovels) where he used a commission to create a sculpture for the Botanical Garden of Culiacan, Mexico to create an intricate collaboration that would transform weapons of death into tools for life.   He began by running ads to collect guns in exchange for coupons that could be exchanged for appliances and electronics in local shops.

Palas Por Pistolas by Pedro Reyes

Through these series of ads inspired by soap operas he collected 1,527 firearms. He then brokered an agreement with the army – the legal depository for illegal guns – to melt the metal and sell it to a shovel factory.  The factory agreed to manufacture 1,527 shovels, which were then distributed to art institutions and schools to plant trees.  Local youths planted the first trees in the Botanical Garden, where a statue might have stood.

The success of Palas por pistolas put Reyes in a curious position of becoming a receptacle for even more firearms confiscated by the army. He in turn started another project Imagine (2012) where he collaborated with musicians to create instruments from the weapons.  The result is the creation of music through the redemption of metal that could be used to kill.


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