Pedro Reyes (artist)

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Pedro Reyes
Pedro Reyes bio.jpg
Artist Pedro Reyes, 2018

Pedro Reyes (born 1972 Mexico City) is a Mexican artist. He uses sculpture, architecture, video, performance and participation.[1] His works aims to increase individual or collective agency in social, environmental, political or educational situations.[2][3]


After studying Architecture, Reyes founded "Torre De Los Vientos", an experimental project space in Mexico City which operated from 1996-2002.

In 2015, he received the U.S. State Department Medal for the Arts, and was named a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow.

In 2016, he was visiting lecturer at MIT's Art, Culture and Technology program[4] where he co-taught the course The Reverse Engineering of Warfare: Challenging Techno-optimism and Reimagining the Defense Sector (an Opera for the End of Times)” in conjunction with Carla Fernández. The course explored the interplay of imperialism, armed interventions, the defense budget, the history of engineering and military technology, crisis management in environmental disasters, popular entertainment and the global imbalances created by the West’s fixation on technological advancement. The resulting performance included collaborative creative enactments of the actual facts and the (often unasked) ethical questions faced by society today.[5]

In 2017, he was the inaugural Dasha Zhukova Distinguished Visiting Artist at MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology.[6]

Ad usum: to be used, a monograph of his work, edited by José L. Falconi, was published by Harvard University Press in late 2017.


Palas por Pistolas[edit]

“Palas por Pistolas” is an art project and a campaign to curb the trade of small weapons into Mexico.[7][8] The campaign was first organized with the support of the Botanical Garden of Culiacán and the City authorities. The population was invited by a series of TV ads and radio announcements to exchange firearms for vouchers and electric appliances. The campaign broke the national record of voluntary donation, and the firearms were crushed by a steamroller, melted and re-moulded into 1,527 gardening tools.[9] These shovels have been distributed to a number of art institutions and public schools where adults and children engage in the action of planting 1527 trees. Tree plantings have taken place at the Vancouver Art Gallery (2008),San Francisco Art Institute (2008) Maison Rouge, Paris (2008), Lyon Biennial (2009), Marfa, Texas (2010), Denver, Colorado (2010), Boston (2011). It aims to show how “an agent of death can become and agent of life”.[10]


"Disarm" was another art project that Pedro Reyes created that was produced in relation to "Palas por Pistolas." For this project, Reyes was contacted by Mexican government officials who were informed of the work Reyes was doing to help gun control in Culiacán, Mexico. They reached out to Reyes to notify him about the 6,700 confiscated guns that they had received to see if he could use them. Keeping in mind how the shovels in "Palas Por Pistolas" had brought people together, Reyes decided to use the guns and their parts to create musical instruments. He was able to construct wind and percussion devices that could actually produce sound. The instruments were then used in a performance in 2012 at the Mexico City gallery Proyecto Liquido. After exhibiting the performance there, "Disarm" went on to several other galleries around the world. This piece was called involved musicians who helped Reyes create assemblage like instruments based on their unusual sound. Reyes talked about the musical instruments sound as an “exorcism or an elegy.”[11]

Baby Marx[edit]

"Baby Marx" is a puppet comedy, featuring as main characters Karl Marx and Adam Smith.[12][13] It first started as Reyes’ contribution to the 2008 Yokohama Triennale and then as a Project for the CCA Kitakyushu. Curator Akiko Miyake and puppet master Takumi Ota worked with Reyes to create a series of puppets and a trailer which were exhibited in a traveling show in Japan.[14][15] Mexican production house Detalle Films became interested in producing the first episode that would become a TV series. A pilot was shot in 2009 which created interest in a feature film rather than a TV series. Recently Baby Marx has been shown at the Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis, and a series of small clips have been released for the internet.[16]


"Sanatorium" is a temporary clinic that provides short, unexpected therapies. Brought to Brooklyn in 2011 with the Guggenheim's support, Sanatorium is a utopian clinic of topical treatments for those inner-city afflictions we are all too familiar with: stress, loneliness and hyper-stimulation.[17][18] In two-hour windows, Sanatorium visitors experience up to 3 sessions from 16 options through meetings with a series of “therapists".[19][20] In "therapy" one gets to play and consider self. The cure is in the process, powered by what the individual is willing to give and unload.[21] All 16 treatments are based on traditional methods of expression or respected forms of perception changing programming.[22] Balancing reality and fiction, Sanatorium draws from Gestalt psychology, theater warm-up exercises, Fluxus events, conflict resolution techniques, trust-building games, corporate coaching, psychodrama, and hypnosis. In 2012, Sanatorium has been presented in DOCUMENTA (13),[23] the Whitechapel Gallery in 2013, Toronto's The Power Plant in 2014, ICA Miami, CAM St Louis, and OCA São Paulo in 2015.

pUN: People's United Nations[edit]

pUN is an experimental conference in which regular citizens act as delegates for each of the countries in the UN and seek to apply techniques and resources from social psychology, theater, art, and conflict resolution to geopolitics. The first edition of the People's UN was presented at the Queens Museum in 2013. pUN’s second edition took place at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (2015). The third General Assembly of pUN took place in December 2015 at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan.


Entomofagia (Spanish for entomophagy–the practice of eating insects) is a series of culinary experiments. The first happened in 2013 at Casa do Vidro in São Paulo, where a small snack cart offered visitors a Brazilian street food specialty: giant ants. The project focuses on the enormous ecological advantages of shifting protein consumption to insects. As an alternative to the ubiquitous fast-food staple, the beef hamburger, Reyes created the Grasswhopper, a burger with a patty made of crickets, a common snack in southern Mexico.

Amendment to the Amendment[edit]

In 2015, Reyes created Amendment to the Amendment, a traveling workshop where US citizens take part in a rewrite of the Second Amendment. Inspired in Legislative Theater, this workshop is a sort of massive hackathon where the public creates rewrites of the Second Amendment. In a series of workshops, a two-act play exploring the interpretation of gun legislation, specifically the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is developed.


"Doomocracy" is a major temporary installation put together with the help of Creative Time at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Brooklyn, New York. The exhibition also had a successful Kickstarter croudfunding campaign that raised $86,064 with the help of 398 backers.[24] The show was performed Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at timed intervals from 6 p.m. to midnight, from October 7 through Halloween until December 7, 2016 right after the 2016 US presidential election. This immersive installation combined both ideas of Halloween and the 2016 US presidential election to create a haunted house of sorts discussing the current political landscape. The Brooklyn Army terminal was once the largest military supply base in the United States which makes it the perfect backdrop for the exhibition especially at night.[25] Visitors were faced with situations ripped directly from the news, issues such as stop & frisk, voter fraud, pandemic gun violence, drugs and the US healthcare system as a white-collar drug dealer, diabeties, CEO bailouts and commentary on the rich, GMO's, abortion, climate change, privatization of national parks, and drone strikes. Doomocracy visitors are able to explore the depth and breadth of the American political anxieties in these situations they are thrown into.[26][27][28]

Manufacturing Mischief[edit]

In addition to his position as lecturer in the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology, Reyes met with MIT faculty and researchers to develop potential collaborative projects. As part of his research Reyes met with Professor Noam Chomsky, to whom he proposed making a play featuring Chomsky as the protagonist. Reyes has integrated theater into his repertoire since 2008, often using handmade puppets from Japan, inspired by the Bunraku tradition. Reyes’ puppet plays include The Permanent Revolution (2014) on the life of Leon Trotsky and other political satires featuring key figures in the history of philosophy, such as Karl Marx and Adam Smith. In Manufacturing Mischief, the character of Noam Chomsky finds an antagonist in Ayn Rand, who has never been taken seriously in academia, yet continues to be read widely and is a source of ideologies associated with Trumpism. Elon Musk is a technocratic hero today, in the tradition of Henry Ford and Steve Jobs. These and other characters are brought into the play by a Deus ex machina called the Print-A-Friend, an apparatus where a book is put in and out comes the author. Manufacturing Mischief premiered at MIT April 2018. The following months, it will be staged at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, The Tank in New York City, The Power Plant in Toronto, and the Serpentine Galleries in London.[29]


  1. ^ "Pedro Reyes | Design Indaba". Design Indaba. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  2. ^ "The Playful Geometry of Pedro Reyes - Been-Seen". Been-Seen. 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  3. ^ "14 Questions for Artist Pedro Reyes | Artinfo". Artinfo. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  4. ^ "Pedro Reyes ACT MIT Faculty".
  5. ^ "MIT Cast".
  6. ^ "Artist Profile at MIT CAST".
  7. ^ "Artist Transforms Weapons of the Drug War to Plant Trees". GOOD Magazine. 2010-11-06. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  8. ^ "Palas por Pistolas". Archived from the original on 2009-10-26.
  9. ^ "Lyon Biennale – Pedro Reyes". We Make Money Not Art. 2010-01-27. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  10. ^ "Artist Melts 1,527 Guns to Make Shovels for Tree Planting!". Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  11. ^ "EBSCO Publishing Service Selection Page". Retrieved 2017-10-17.
  12. ^ "BabyMarx". Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  13. ^ "Baby Marx Event". Archived from the original on 2013-01-19.
  14. ^ "Art review: Puppet regime". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  15. ^ "Yokohama Triennale 2008: Pedro Reyes". Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  16. ^ Kerr, Euan. "Marx and Smith ponder economics at the Walker". Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  17. ^ Garcia-Vasquez, Marina. "Pedro Reyes' Sanatorium, A Social Experiment in Sanity for Busy New Yorkers". Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  18. ^ "City Sickness". Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  19. ^ "Stillspotting NYC | South Brooklyn Post | News & Culture in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Gowanus, Red Hook and Points Nearby". Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  20. ^ "Pedro Reyes' Sanatorium, a Social Experiment in Sanity for Busy New Yorkers - Core77". Core77. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  21. ^ "Pedro Reyes Brings Sanity to Brooklyn - News - Art in America". Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  22. ^ Garcia-Vasquez, Mariana. "Pedro Reyes' Sanatorium". Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  23. ^ [url=]
  24. ^ "Doomocracy: A Haunted House with Pedro Reyes & Creative Time". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2016-12-22.
  25. ^ Kennedy, Randy (2016-10-06). "'Doomocracy' Puts the Politics of Fear on Display in Brooklyn". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-12-22.
  26. ^ "Doomocracy - Creative Time". Creative Time. Retrieved 2016-12-22.
  27. ^ Rayner, Alex (2016-09-22). "Doomocracy: the funhouse haunted by Trump and Clinton". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-12-22.
  28. ^ "Democracy Becomes The Scariest Thing Of All At Creative Time's Doomocracy Haunted House In Brooklyn". Gothamist. Archived from the original on 2016-10-15. Retrieved 2016-12-22.
  29. ^ "MIT Cast".

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