Dezeen and MINI World Tour: in our next movie from the UK capital, senior curator at the V&A Kieran Long explains why the London museum has controversially acquired the world's first 3D-printed gun. Update: this interview is featured in Dezeen Book of Interviews, which is on sale now for £12.
As revealed first by Dezeen, earlier this month the V&A acquired two prototype 3D-printed guns developed and successfully fired by Texan law student Cody Wilson, displaying a copy of one of them during London Design Festival.
"I'm really passionate about this acquisition," says Long, who is senior curator of contemporary architecture, design and digital at the V&A and was heavily involved in acquiring the gun.
"It has caused a lot of fuss in the press, that the V&A would acquire something like this. But what I've been pleased about is that most people have seen it not as something deliberately shocking but as a really good signpost to where manufacturing might be going and the implications of new technology."
Long is also one of Dezeen's new Opinion columnists and his first piece for us set out his guidelines for modern museum curation, where he asserted that "ugly and sinister objects demand the museum’s attention just as much as beautiful and beneficial ones do."
The original prototypes did not arrive at the museum in time for London Design Festival, so the museum printed out a copy in London based on Wilson's blueprints.
"We have guns in the collection; we have all the relevant licences to import firearms," Long explains. "The only problem we have is getting an export licence. We've had the Department for Culture and Media here involved, we've had all of our technical services people involved. It's been an immense bureaucratic effort."
Wilson, a self-proclaimed anarchist, made the blueprints for the weapon available online through his Defence Distributed website, before the US government ordered them to be taken down. Long says that the politics of Wilson's gun is what gets him excited.
"Something that I'm really passionate about at the V&A is to show the political backgrounds of things, even when they might not be palatable," he says.
"I don't believe everyone should be carrying guns and that's not what we're advocating here. What we are saying is this is possible and we might have to do something about it if we don't want these things to happen."
He continues: "The design of the gun and its distribution online is an act of politics as much as an act of design and that's when I get really excited because I think design is something that can tell us about the world."
Long believes the weapon has also turned the conversation about the future implications of 3D printing on its head.
"There's been a lot of technocratic optimism around 3D printing, particularly in the design world," he says.
"But when Cody Wilson released [the digital files for his 3D-printed gun online] it really transformed that conversation. It changed it into ethical issues around how we want to live together, how new technologies affect our relationships with one another. This gun, just sitting there, is pregnant with all of those questions."
He continues: "Design for me is the thing that really focusses those questions. And when you see this thing for real you think: 'All these things, can they go together and kill someone?' The answer, simply, is yes."
We drove to the V&A in our MINI Cooper S Paceman. The music featured in the movie is a track called Temple by London band Dead Red Sun.