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Pedro Reyes Named MIT’s Inaugural Dasha Zhukova Distinguished Visiting Artist

Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced that Pedro Reyes will launch a new residency program as the institution’s inaugural Dasha Zhukova Distinguished Visiting Artist. Beginning in the fall, Reyes will teach a studio course titled “The Reverse Engineering of Warfare.”

“Reyes’s multidisciplinary approach to art-making and activism is an ideal fit for the creative exploration and discovery taking place across MIT every day,” Evan Ziporyn, faculty director of the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology, said. “And I have no doubt that this long-term research and development residency will have a lasting impact on both the arts community at MIT and hopefully the artist’s practice as well.”

Selected from a pool of fifty nominees, the Mexico City–based artist, activist, and educator often addresses political and social issues in his works. Committed to using the arts to reduce gun and drug trafficking across Mexico, Reyes established the Palas por Pistolas in 2008. The program melts down guns donated from Mexican citizens and transforms them into gardening tools, which are given out to schools and art institutions for the planting of trees. The popular initiative drew the attention of the Mexican army, who donated 6,700 weapons. His most recent work, Doomocracy, will be presented by Creative Time at the Brooklyn Army Terminal from October 7 to November 7.

“My personal experience and perspective from Latin America, where human interaction matters more than technology, have made me particularly interested in challenging techno-optimism at MIT,” Reyes said. “Institutions around the world always pay attention to what happens at MIT, and I have witnessed many ideas that have emerged there that are being implemented in Latin America.”

Reyes’s class will use experimental performance, music, sculpture, and conflict resolution therapy to question the underlying relationship between technology and security. In collaboration with professor Carla Fernández, Reyes will explore the topics of imperialism, defense budgets, representations of violence in pop culture, the history of engineering and military technology and global imbalances created by the Western fixation on technological advancement.

MIT had announced plans for the artist residency in 2015, after Dasha Zhukova, founder of the Garage Museum for Contemporary Art in Moscow, donated $1 million in support of the program.