Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Artist turns guns into music with a message

TAMPA

The xylophone and flute are the sliced and gouged barrels. The guitar and violin and harmonica are the clips and coils and triggers, and the cymbal is the melted metal of a weapon. They all work to create a new, wholly imperfect sound.

They are instruments made from guns. And in them, Mexican artist Pedro Reyes has continued to realize his vision: What scares people away can be reborn to draw them in.

The instruments are on display at the University of South Florida's Contemporary Art Museum through March 8. Tonight, USF music students will play them in a special performance designed to forge a conversation around gun violence.

"It's kind of a diametrically opposite operation," Reyes said of guns and instruments. "It's turning something that's a technology created for killing into a technology that becomes something to create life."

The project comes at a tense time in Florida's gun history. A man was shot and killed in a Wesley Chapel movie theater this month. The state's controversial "stand your ground" law has been thrust into public debate on the heels of Trayvon Martin's killing in 2012. And a state court ruling recently forced USF and other universities to let students keep guns in their cars.

While those issues may guide conversation here, Reyes comes with another perspective.

At home in Mexico, he said, he lost an uncle and a friend to gun violence. He calls gun availability in the U.S. an issue of national security for Mexico, where Mexicans cross the border and go to American gun shows.

"Perhaps if I hadn't been affected in Mexico, I would have no business in trying to give an opinion on what is going on here," he said. "But the problem is that we cannot solve the problem of gun violence alone in Mexico. We have to somehow tie in with the United States and say, 'Well, we have a shared problem.'

"It's like having a neighbor that decides to make a pool on top of your apartment, and it's leaking. But what it's leaking is guns."

Reyes, 41, has long focused his art around violence in work that has appeared all over the world. He visited USF several years ago with a project, inviting the audience to sing and smash guitars. Anger, he said, could be channeled into a cathartic act.

In 2007, he was invited to contribute to a public art project at a Mexican botanical garden. He organized a campaign, inviting people to bring firearms to city hall. Melted metal from 1,527 guns was used to make as many shovels and plant as many trees as possible.

After hearing about the tree project, Reyes said, the Mexican government offered him 6,700 guns seized from criminal groups. He accepted, but wanted to do something different.

His idea culminates this evening at USF in a performance called "Amendment to the Amendment/(under)stand your ground."

USF music students will play Reyes' instruments in a free concert. The musicians have been practicing on the creations, which are not perfectly technical instruments. The sounds they make are funky, slightly out of tune and raw.

"We knew we were going to have to do something a little more avant-garde," said USF graduate student and guitar player Teague Bechtel, 32. "There's a set of rules you have to follow, and in order to play these instruments, you kind of have to let those go. It's kind of a freeing experience."

The concert will follow what USF theater professor Dora Arreola calls "legislative theater," a technique derived from Brazilian director, writer and politician Augusto Boal's Theater of the Oppressed. It involves the audience, resulting in a production that's part play, part conversation.

"The actors are there to kind of create an artistic environment, in addition to the instruments," Arreola said.

If you go, expect to contribute ideas about the "stand your ground" law and the Second Amendment.

"We're not discussing what is the right interpretation," Reyes said. "We're just saying, 'If there were anything that you would change, what would that be?' And it's not like we have an answer. You will hear many voices. There may be people who say we need more guns …

"If you're not free to ask these questions, then you're not living in a free country."

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3394.

.if you go

Come and listen

The public is invited to "Amendment to the Amendment/(under)stand your ground" at 7 p.m. today in the University of South Florida's Theatre 2, 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. The event is free, but seating is limited and tickets are required. For a reservation, call the USF College of the Arts box office at (813) 974-2323.

Artist turns guns into music with a message 01/22/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 23, 2014 10:09am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017

    Blogs

    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in …

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  4. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  5. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.