Palas Por Pistolas Sugar Maple – One Year Later
Mexico City-based artist Pedro Reyes visited Guelph one year ago to present his practice at the Big Ideas in Art and Culture Lecture Series, and to plant a tree next to the River Run Centre. Trained as an architect, Reyes employs architectural and design strategies to challenge the forces that influence urban and social geography, addressing the interplay of physical and social space. His 2008 project, Palas Por Pistolas, was initiated by the botanical garden of Culiacán, a city in western Mexico with a high rate of death from the use of firearms. Proposing to work beyond the borders of the garden, Reyes organized a campaign for the voluntary donation of weapons in exchange for food stamps, domestic appliances and electronics. As a result 1,527 weapons were recovered and became the raw material to create 1,527 spades. The guns were crushed with a steamroller, smelted and refashioned to create the horticultural tools. Fifteen hundred of the spades were distributed to the Culiacán community and were used to plant 1,500 trees. Palas Por Pistolas demonstrates how agents of death can be transformed into agents of life. During his visit to Guelph Reyes planted a Sugar Maple tree with the help of local residents using one of these significant spades. That tree is thriving in its new home next to the Eramosa River.