You first see a group of anonymous protestors – statues that appear to be taking it to the streets with placards and bullhorns. Elevated at different levels, they present a monument to non-violent protest – a fitting opening to Pedro Reyes: DIRECT ACTION, on view at SITE Santa Fe through May 1.
Reyes believes in participatory art projects that transform art-making into social action.
The products of his 2022 Memento are right behind you – an array of fun flowers popping out of tall vases. Look closer.
The airy containers are transformed guns from a New Mexico buyback program that incentivized people to exchange their guns for grocery or home-store gift cards. The vases, made by welding-class students from Albuquerque and Santa Fe, are all for sale, with proceeds going to fund activities by New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.
Turning the corner into the next installation, you encounter a wall of videos and shovels in a similar transformation – Palas por Pistoles – that Reyes organized in a particularly violence-prone community in western Mexico.
Reyes asked people to donate guns to be melted down for an art project promoting environmental peace. He received 1,527 weapons, crushed them in a public-art event, and commissioned a foundry to make shovels. Schools and museums used the shovels to plant 1,527 trees.
Every turn in the gallery reveals a different type of installation and project – libraries for “the people,” sculptures referencing language systems, posters protesting nuclear arms, and musical instruments and contraptions created from weapons.
You can’t miss the artist’s large volcanic-rock hand with pencil – an emblem of Reyes’ Amendment project that held community meetings where rewrites to the Second Amendment were proposed and discussed. The idea is that with so much discussion on policies these days, it’s better to write down the “amendments to the Amendment” in pencil! A list of suggestions is prominently posted nearby.
Visitors tend to linger in the Disarm gallery, closely examining the various automated musical instruments created from firearms. Every few minutes, one of the pieces awakens to pluck a string or tap out a slow sequence. It’s a bit startling, not knowing which of the seven is going to activate next.
Take a look at our Flickr album to see more of the exhibition and to hear the sounds made by the Disarm instruments.
SITE Santa Fe provides “activators” for Reyes’ Music Machine installation – an experience that demonstrates how one artist’s imagination can make you stop and think, even if it’s toward the end of a deep, contemplative show. Reyes features iconic firearms from three European countries – Austrian Glocks, Swiss Carbines, and Italian Barettas – that have been transformed into classy music boxes. When activated, each plays a musical composition by a famous composer from that country.
Hear the artist talk about each of these works in the SITE Santa Fe audio guide, and take time to ponder taking direct action as you visit this beautifully installed, socially relevant, and thought-provoking show.