"CAN THESE PARTS GO TOGETHER AND
KILL SOMEONE? THE ANSWER IS YES."

| 12 comments

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 gunUpdate: this interview is featured in Dezeen Book of Interviews, which is on sale now for £12.

"Can all these parts go together and kill someone? The answer is yes."

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.

"Can all these parts go together and kill someone? The answer is yes."

"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."

"Can all these parts go together and kill someone? The answer is yes."

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."

"Can all these parts go together and kill someone? The answer is yes."

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.

"Can all these parts go together and kill someone? The answer is yes."

"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."

"Can all these parts go together and kill someone? The answer is yes."

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."

"Can all these parts go together and kill someone? The answer is yes."
Kieran Long

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.

See all our stories about 3D printing »
See all our Dezeen and MINI World Tour movies »
See all our stories about London Design Festival 2013 »

  • everyone wants money…

    Can’t you have the same result (kill someone if that is the issue) with any object (designed or not), or the problem is that there isn’t any % for the state (or any other company) in selling this item ?

    Responsibility of any crime is completely another subject, it has nothing to do with this element.

  • Antøn

    Ooff

  • Kristoffer

    You will see me running when you can print the bullets, until then I prefer 3D-printed Nunchucks :)

  • -

    The world has bigger issues to worry about then a 3D printed gun.

  • chillng

    Austin Powers as a Senior Curator?

  • http://www.libertydisciple.com/ The Liberty Disciple

    Slaves aren’t allowed guns.

    As long as other slaves stand behind emotion instead of the history of owning and using arms to be free from oppression, this object will be controversial.

    Those who are shocked over a gun being made by a person at home, should also be shocked that without weapons, we would all still be enslaved subjects to a tyrant king. Removing arms from citizens is going backwards, not forward.

  • JayCee

    You would have more luck bludgeoning someone to death with it. Although given the UK’s draconian gun laws, I’m curious how the British HMC even allowed this to enter the country.

    • El Jiji

      “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.”

  • Al

    I thought this was an architecture/design magazine. Can someone explain me how a GUN fit into this equation?

    • El Jiji

      It is not just any gun, it is a gun symbolic of new design technologies which affect its potential place and function within society.

      (and besides, guns are design objects anyhow)

  • pet

    “CAN THESE PARTS GO TOGETHER AND
    KILL SOMEONE? THE ANSWER IS YES.”
    The shooter himself when it explodes in his/her face.

  • JayCee

    So in fact, the museum has just manufactured an illegal weapon (or indeed replica weapon) according to UK law. I think the police should be informed. I’m pretty sure the penalties are quite stiff for this.