In 1919 El Lissitzky created Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge. With this poster he sought to promote a form of political action using the basic forms of suprematism, the revolutionary avant-garde movement of which he was a part. In opposition to his mentor, Kazimir Malevich, who strove for a higher, immaterial reality, El Lissitzky wanted to apply suprematism to the reality of the streets. Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge is a contemporary realization of this call to arms. On display in two vitrines are the components of four Liberator guns, one of the first all-plastic “printable” pistols developed and promoted by the Texas-based nonprofit, peer-sponsored organization Defense Distributed in 2013. The components were produced using (illegal) open-source data found on the Internet and a regular 3-D printer. Each component is white, red, or black. A reproduction of El Lissitzky’s original poster is placed on the wall, thus allowing an open comparison between two abstract ideas of “liberation” and concrete objects across time, space, politics, and technologies.
The Liberator was the culmination of the Wiki Weapon Project dedicated to exploring the new possibilities that 3-D technology offered those who claim the right to bear arms as stated in the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Seen from that perspective, the pistol is a radical invention. The Liberator is cheap and simple to produce and also bypasses existing gun laws. A print of the Liberator is without a serial number and does not demand registration, which is why the U.S. State Department has labeled them “ghost guns.” No one knows they exist. Despite an ongoing conflict with the State Department, Defense Distributed has continued to develop so-called printable firearms, and their products now include data for printing an automatic rifle.