Whilst in town for Audi’s Urban Future Initiative, we had the pleasure of taking in Istanbul’s inaugural Design Biennial – essentially a duo of exhibitions curated by Emre Arolat and Joseph Grima, for the Istanbul Found. for Culture & Arts, that weren’t afraid to challenge traditional beliefs of design, and to provoke a response through thoughtfully invited participants. If you were looking for the latest, greatest chair from the latest, greatest big name in international design; you’d happened upon the wrong place.
Serving to exemplify this point, one floor of the rather charming Galata Greek School – which was hosting Joseph Grima’s Adhocracy exhibition – was largely dominated by Imagine, a recent body of work from Mexico City artist Pedro Reyes. Deeply rooted in placing the power of production back in the hands of individuals, the Adhocracy (a term first popularised by American futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970) exhibition naturally focussed on forward-thinking DIY culture – the hugely versatile Arduino open-source microcontroller, 3D printing and online toolkits were heavily featured – but Reyes’ work delivered something considerably more emotive.
Born out of his country’s infamous crime problems, Reyes – who has been working with confiscated weapons since 2008 – has transformed almost 7,000 firearms (revolvers, shotguns, machine guns…) into a 50 piece orchestra of musical instruments. Melted, smelted, welding and beaten into submission; Reyes and his crew transformed the weapons in just two weeks, realising everything from flutes to drums, bass guitar to xylophone in the process.
Thought-provoking, innovative and empowering, the pièce de résistance here is that the hastily cobbled together instruments actually sound bloody good (just listen to that bass in the below video at around 4:15), and the real clincher? The track chosen to demonstrate the former-firearms’ musical prowess: Rage Against The Machine’s Bullet In The Head. Genius.