The Helmet Project, displayed as part of Liverpool Biennial 2016 at FACT, is based on the effects of conflict. The group were initially introduced to the project by artist Krzysztof Wodiczko, who previously ran a related project with the group aimed at fostering a better understanding of the impact of combat on veterans and their families. For this project, Wodiczko introduced a ‘helmet’ concept and initial prototype, which the group have developed in a series of workshops.
Throughout the workshops each veteran has identified their own, often contrasting, motivations for being involved in the project. This has meant that different themes have emerged as to the purpose of the end product or user experience. The initial prototype was mainly designed with the idea of ‘protection’ in mind, driven by a need to feel protected from ‘triggering’ experiences during the everyday experience of life. By providing a screen in front of the face, the user will be cut off from potentially triggering experiences, for example, when walking down the street. A projector is also incorporated into the helmet, to allow the user to project images that will provide a comforting counter-image to a potentially ‘triggering’ one.
Throughout the workshops another important concept has emerged that the veterans want the project to incorporate – that of understanding and awareness-raising. The veterans want this project to raise awareness and promote understanding of their experiences whilst in the military, the effects of this, and the subsequent PTSD that their experiences may have caused. It has been suggested that this is done through attempting to inspire empathy in the audience using images, text, colours and sounds that are known to evoke particular feelings. The veteran will be able to share their experiences through projecting these images onto umbrellas. This will also allow for an encounter between the veteran and the audience.
Creating a concept and product that allows each veteran to portray their own motivations for being involved in the project, but also incorporates themes of both protection and understanding, has been a difficult task and at the heart of these workshops. Numerous suggestions have been made and rapid prototypes have been created to find an effective way to incorporate both themes and make the end product or experience multipurpose. As each veteran has unique experiences of both the military and its subsequent effects, each veteran will create their own content to be viewed by the audience.
Come and see the project for yourself, as part of our current exhibition in Gallery 1.