DIRECT ACTION — SITE Santa Fe — Pedro Reyes
Feb 3 to May 1, 2023
On Friday night, April 28, we sat in the entry gallery at SITE and listened to Leticia Gonzales play her violin, and then one of the violins made out of guns by Pedro Reyes. We faced the musician and the sculpture pictured above. All the work in the exhibition, Direct Action, was conducted by Reyes, and involves several projects made with different organizations and players, completed over the past 10 years including this violin, which is just one of the pieces in his DISARM project. The violin itself was called the disarm violin.
No Sympathy for the Devil
Gonzales played some traditional folk tunes, then a Bach piece and everyone swayed in their chairs to the music. When she played the disarm violin we looked like we were watching a horror show.
The violence of the bow drawing into ominous sounds felt like a vibration of mechanical tools — not a clear ring but a warning. Hairs across strings spun of twisted metal. That bass string, even on a warm wooden violin, felt menacing as Gonzoles played the Bach piece, as if she was preparing us for — not the human voice that Bach often brings to my mind — but the gun metal’s cry.
When she played the disarm violin, propelled through the sonic landscape with an amplifier’s hum and the design of the artist who collected guns and melted them into garden tools, his instrument produced distressed squeals that the musician tried hard to pull into something more acoustically appealing but more accurately telling of the wasted energy of making guns. They do not make the best musical instruments.
The irritation of insects sounded from the tool, a wormwood home it is not, and feels like impenetrable songs being screamed by the cast metal figures that stood before us, the audience, statically waving signs of protest at us. They are sculpture and cannot be arrested. Already, they are stopped, fixed in the stance designed for them by a committee convened to make art of protest. They cannot hear the historical evil built into the disarm violin. Their posture frozen and stiff does not change and nor does ours. Until she stops. Thank you, we say.
Gathering up guns to melt into garden shovels,
a crowd of people with dangerous objects circle
the white hot fire of the crucible,
an idea of clear obvious congress.
Re-fabricating the vehicles of violence
into violins, orchestrating a concert
of voices stating the problem as dumb
as a shovel to impenetrable soil it falls upon.