Born in Mexico City, 1972, studied architecture at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City. He seemed, however, to quickly deviate from classical sense of architecture, and dedicated two decades to working as an artist in its broadest sense. His works range from sculptures to furniture design, and from provocative installations to social experiments, often with a socio-political focus.
At the Collective we greatly admire Reyes’ approach, and have ourselves been inspired to explore interactive art in particular - symbolic and powerful, awakening the human spirit and conscience, and subtly encouraging a more conscious, altruistic way of life.
The more we read about Reyes’ works the more we realize that the core of our own mission – to plant the seed to a life of sustainable, conscious decisions – resonates with the core his work. His subtle, subliminal activism fosters both an individual, inner dialogue, then extends to a collective awareness, evaluation, and discussion of the status quo, and how to tackle issues we may face – or even simply to challenge the way we even think of these issues.
We are very honored to have had the opportunity to speak to Pedro Reyes and to further pick his brain and try to understand how a creative artisan and low-key provocateur goes about using the most powerful tools art has to provide, to provoke thought, action, and change. The common ground is sustainability, desperately in need of the unorthodox creativity that Reyes possesses and provides in his work.
We selected a few individual works that really spoke to us. We highly encourage our readers to take a look at his collected works presented on his website linked at the bottom.
“Zink” was an installation Reyes completed in 2005. With extreme weather on the rise, paired with already servere, recurring droughts around the world, severe water shortages are becoming a more and more daunting reality year by year. It seems for a greater part of the last century we have lived with a sense of endless supply of natural resources. However, no-one honestly and truthfully believed that our collective lifestyles could remain unchanged without consequences.
Just to draw a parallel, in late 2017 there were first mentions of “Day Zero”, severe water restrictions where municipal water supplies in Cape Town South Africa would largely have been switched off. This would have meant that residents would have to get their water in form of daily rations instead of free flow from the tap, making Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of water. This was unprecedented, and people greatly managed to change their behavior, and, as a result, “day zero” was indefinitely postponed.
One aspect we loved was the analogy that with a simple device like the one created, Mexico City could save and put 100 million liters of water per day to good use. How does that work? In the power of numbers. Mexico City's greater metropolitan area has a population of approx. 20 million, half of who shower on average once per day, and waste 10 litres of water before they even enter the shower as the stream warms. An example whereby if and when a change were to be carried out collectively – all minutely tweaking their behavior – the results could be astronomical.
Moving on to with Entomofagia (eating insects). Reyes introduced the consumption of grasshopper burgers, discussing and addressing the related fears and cultural taboos.
The images below date back to 2013, and 6 years have gone by. How much has changed. Have more people substituted meats for insects, or other proteins? If not, why not? This is one of the major questions we are left with.
The meat industry still accounts for approximately 50% of all CO2 emissions from global food consumption. It seems difficult to change one's food preferences but occasionally opting for not eating meat, or eating plant or insect based alternatives would lead to a seismic change if everyone follows suit.
Next we have Dump Shoes 2006. Inspired by snowshoes. In a way the shoes resemble a future dystopia, however in some parts of the world this has been a sad reality for some time. Humans have created so much trash our system has spiralled out of control. The process is overlooked and mindless. Fill the garbage bag, toss it, out of heart and out of mind. Much lands in landfill, and even the export of trash to foreign, developing nations has become a reality. Perhaps these shoes will get us to think a little deeper about that.
One may interpret this as purely a work of satire. But, they were even used by Reyes himself. Astonishing when jokes and dystopia becomes a reality.
We could go on endlessly with the myriad of projects Reyes has completed, but for now we will end with the pUN (people's United Nations).
In this project, a range of issues were discussed and debated between 193 regular citizens from NY representing their families and origins from their respective nations.
The remarkable thing about this idea is art manifesting itself so naturally, simply through human nature and our interactions – and a novel way to move us away from this rigid way we have organized the governance of our society, lost in bureaucracy and diplomatic debate, rather than strengthening the communication and bonds throughout our communities. This bond, along with global cooperation is something that we see as an essentiality in order to make significant steps to improving the way we treat out planet – and ourselves.