Pedro Reyes was born in 1972 in Mexico where he lives and works. His work is based on the relationship between architecture, the environment and social ties which are formed in a public space. His work is particularly multifaceted – he creates drawings, sculptures, installations and modular architectural structures, videos, cartoons and performances. His wants his work to combine the public and places.
The social and ecological dimension of his work is notably present in his project Palas por Pistolas (Pistols into Spades), in answer to a commission from the Culiacan Botanical Gardens in Mexico – people are invited to voluntarily donate weapons which are then melted down in a local factory to then be transformed into shovels. The 1527 shovels have each contributed to planting a tree.
The Atlas of Civic Innovation is a portable exhibition containing “case study” posters. The latter present the story and the illustration, in the form of a comic strip with all sorts of civic initiatives which have contributed to improve the conditions of life and environment to a certain population. The artist maps outs yoga teaching experiments in prison or the manufacture of compost boxes.
During his residence at the MAC/VAL, he created OuScuPo, Ouvroir de Sculpture Potentielle, which makes a reference to the Oulipo literary movement. With this project he pursues his work with ambigrams started in 2007 when he made word sculptures. An ambigram is the backward writing of a term allowing it to reveal another word. The writing is in cursive, colourful and the letter groups are sculpted in Corian, a material generally used for design. When walking around the sculpture, “monument” becomes “trembling”, “Antarctica” become “statistics”. Oulipo inspired his multiplying of these both graphic and poetic linguistic transformations. Pedro Reyes called upon a computer programmer to design an application where the whole French dictionary could be entered and to obtain all the ambigrams possible found from reading a word in the mirror. Among the 44 pages of ambigrams, Pedro Reyes chose words with meaningful and jubilatory transformations such as “mouton” which becomes “nation”, “union” which becomes “haine” and “jeu” which becomes “cul” - an ironic reference to the work by François Morellet from the MAC/VAL collection with 56 electrico-mechanical pseudo-random-poetical and geometrical lights (1966) which light up to successively read the words, NON, NUL, CUL, CON. This project is accompanied by a meeting with the artist and the prison convicts from the Fresne prison, who participate in a plastic arts workshop to polish sculptures within a partnership framework between the MAC/VAL and the SPIP 94 (The penitentiary service for integration and probation). From May 30 to June 9, 2011, this workshop is the opportunity for convicts to discover Pedro Reyes’s work and to participate in making a work of art. The company Tardy-Agencement will send a member of its personnel to train convicts about polishing Corian with a pneumatic drill and sand-paper. Before the preview opening at the MAC/VAL on June 24, the works are shown for one day at the prison, with Pedro Reyes going to meet the convicts and showing them his work – an interesting exchange in an exhibition room. The Lyon Biennale has a copy of the Atlas of Civic Innovations, translated in French, which will be a debate-subject with the convicts. This project is part of the social involvement which remains a major preoccupation of the artist through his creations.