Disarm by Pedro Reyes & Cocolab
Published on December 6, 2013
“Disarm” is a project that Mexican artist Pedro Reyes created in collaboration with COCOLAB, a media studio in Mexico City.. Within this project a fundamental transformation takes place: agents of violence are transformed into life and creation tools. Weapons lead to the generation of musical instruments. These machines are mechanical musical instruments; they can be programmed and operated via computers, making them capable of performing music concerts with compositions prepared beforehand.
The various parts of these automatons are recognizable as shotguns, pistols and rifles; while they no longer pose the threat of physical harm, they keep the sheer might of their most recent purpose. Now, these former arms strum, ring, crash, hum, and vibrate at different volumes and intensities to express elaborate compositions with a wide range of sonic nuances.
For the project, Reyes was able to choose from about 6,700 guns that were turned in or seized by the army and police in Ciudad Juárez, a city about 1.3 million people that averaged about 10 killings a day at the height of violence.
Making art about guns, you can easily be seduced by the object itself, so the result may wind up praising or glorifying the object rather than critiquing it. Because of the pacifist purpose of this project, the message has to be clear so that the idea has currency for a general audience.
A good example to mention here is that of Matsuo Bashô, the Edo period Japanese poet. One day, while walking through a field of dragonflies one of Bashô’s students composed a haiku:
Remove their wings
And they are pepper pods
Bashô told his student that this was not a true haiku, correcting the poem thus:
Red pepper pods
And they are dragonflies
For Basho, what constitutes a haiku is not only its technical construction, but also a moment of insight; when an object or image is seen in a new light or when something is added or revealed in a meaningful way.