Islander’s futuristic helmets exhibited at London gallery

Islander’s futuristic helmets exhibited at London gallery

The helmets are fitted with optics that enable wearers to experience the world from the perspective of, among others, a giraffe, a horse and a hammerhead shark.

Neil McKenzie, a specialist metal worker and artist based in Trinity, collaborated with two Paris-based Irish artists, Anne Cleary and Denis Connolly, and created seven ‘meta-perceptual’ helmets in 2013, Five of these creations were exhibited as part of a Self-impressions exhibition held at the London art gallery over the weekend.

The exhibition was curated by philosophers and neuroscientists from the University of London and invited visitors to ‘discover more about your sense of self, and how it is constantly being modelled and reproduced’.

Mr McKenzie said: ‘The concept behind the helmets was the product of various conversations between the three of us.

‘Denis is always coming up with really creative, off-the-wall ideas and Anne does a lot of work promoting what we do. I created the helmets while also having the freedom of expression to design them while Denis and Anne designed the optics.’

Each helmet took the artist an average of 400 hours to make, with much of the time spent experimenting with prototypes.

Mr McKenzie added: ‘One of the seven helmets was also commissioned by the Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem and the seventh is a “paraperceptual” helmet which allows whoever wears it to experience what we imagine to be the vision of a cyclops. All of the ideas came from challenging and discussing why different animals see in various ways and the differences between them.’

Mr McKenzie is fully trained in traditional metalwork and restores Aston Martins, as well as other vintage cars, in his Trinity workshop.

‘If it’s metal, weird and broken – bring it here,’ he added.

‘I once fixed a part of a broken bronze clock from St Mark’s Church that no one had been able to repair.’

According to Mr McKenzie, the artistic trio’s inspiration for the helmets came from the research of a neurobiologist called Michael Land.

The complex metal optics were developed over 18 months in consultation with research institutes in Paris and Montreal and were originally funded by the Jersey Arts Council.

The Irish artists’ website states: ‘Wearing the helmets, users become a hybrid creature themselves: part human, part machine, part animal, but also part work of art.

‘They challenge those who contemplate the helmet to take a new perspective on the world.’

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