‘Topshot Helmet’ is a device to see yourself from above. It is inspired by the so called ‘GTA View’. GTA (Grand Theft Auto) is a videogame in which a virtual camera follows the avatar from a top view. In this gameplay the camera will always stay right above the avatar, giving the player a birds-eye, godlike view (see also the left picture below).

 With the ‘Topshot Helmet’ you are able to experience this view in reality. You basically wear a big, white helmet that covers your head. A big helium balloon is mounted with wires onto the helmet, and always floats right above you. At the bottom of the balloon, a camera is positioned that is connected to the helmet. In this way it is possible to see the world, and yourself from above.

         gta2.jpg           Julius+von+Bismarck+Topshot-Helmet+Innen

Wearing the ‘Topshot Helmet’ will give you an out-of-body-experience. Through this helmet your vision will be released from your body, suggesting that you can control yourself from above. This is almost Godlike. In her article: ‘Embodied Virtuality: Or How to Put Bodies Back Into the Picture’, N. Katherine Hayles explains that the dream of transcending the body has always been expressed through certain kinds of spiritualities. But today we have new possibilities: “to achieve this apotheosis one does not need spiritual discipline, only a good robot surgeon”. [1] Or in the case of the ‘Topshot Helmet’: maybe one only needs a camera and a helium balloon.    

This godlike view is, however, very restricted; a view from above doesn’t reach very far. It is only possible to see things that are in your direct surroundings. Whilst wearing the ‘Topshot Helmet’ you have to adapt yourself to a new way of seeing and navigating, which is more restricted than most of us are used to.   

Also, the design isn’t optimal. Because the helmet is tied to a helium balloon, it is difficult to keep your balance. You can’t easily walk around; a gush of wind, or even a low ceiling will destroy your experience.

       topshot-helmet.jpg

When you wear the ‘Topshot Helmet’ you do get a lot of attention. In the video above we see the artist walking around town with his helmet. This almost looks like some kind of performance; bystanders must be wondering how the artist can navigate his way around. What’s more, the artist sort of looks like a cyborg; half man, half machine. The helmet with the helium balloon also resembles the Sputnik, the first Earth-orbiting satellite.

Therefore the artwork doesn't just give a simulation of a videogame-aesthetic, it also reflects on other kinds of electronic views on the world. Thinking about videogames, video camera’s, and even satellites, we come to realize how much our view of the world is influenced by electronic media and technological inventions. We all live in a hyper real world.

 

More information:

Website ‘Topshot Helmet': http://www.juliusvonbismarck.com/topshot-helmet/index.html

Website Artist: http://www.juliusvonbismarck.com/index.html

 

Notes:

[1] Hayles, N. Katherine. ‘Embodied Virtuality: Or How to Put Bodies Back Into the Picture’ (1996). In: Edward Shanken, red. Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009: p. 261.

 

Comments

I love this idea. Did you find this through the ideas of Grand Theft Auto? I love the way you talked about the practicality of the siutation. Would you personally take advantage of the situation to experience the out of body view? Thinking about the view that most kids see in video games is intriguing and makes me think they are "playing" their own lives. People who engage in this art would have both control over the character (themselves) as well as the view they are used to with videogames. Overall, I think this is a very intriuging idea and I love how you talk about the practicality.
Great entry, the connections to Sputnik, the "hyper real", and to the performative aspect of wearing the apparatus in public. Though I've never worn the Topshot Helmet, it seems less a godlike view and more like the out of body experiences described by trauma patients, especially with the limited peripheral view and the awkward fit of the piece. You might be interested in this 2011 Carsten Holler installation/relational aesthetics project at the New Museum, curated by Massimiliano Gioni: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/28/arts/design/carsten-holler-experience-at-the-new-museum-review.html?_r=0.