Cosmic Surgery Will Replace Your Face with a Polygon Prism

IRL portraits and a webcam-photo-studio dispatch with earthly notions of beauty

Artist Alma Haser is Dyslexic and once mixed up the term ‘cosmetic surgery’ with ‘cosmic surgery’. From there, an art project was born. She started with origami and everything in camera. Now she’s inside your webcam.

Haser is about to publish her second book, could do with your help and is here to tell us all about these trippy portraits.

Emily von Hoffmann: In an excerpt from your upcoming book, Cosmic Surgery it becomes clear that these images are part of a whole universe that you’ve created. Can you please describe the concept of the project for our readers?

Alma Haser: Cosmic Surgery is set in a fictional, not too distant future where intelligent materials are about to transform the world of traditional cosmetic surgery. These intelligent materials, or YourMat® technology in the world of Cosmic Surgery, are implanted on to your face and connect directly to your brain, making your face changeable and adaptable depending on your mood. My portraits document the results.

Everything is hand made. I printed the portrait to fold into origami but at the same time found that I really loved the change in quality and texture of the re-photographed print.

EvH: How did this idea arise? Did the story precede the images, or the other way around?

AH: The title emerged initially from me mistaking the word ‘cosmetic’ with ‘cosmic’, but the concept behind Cosmic Surgery has really evolved with the project. Originally it was primarily focused on technique and a three-part process — photographing the sitter, printing the portrait and multiples of their face before folding it into complicated origami structures, and then finally re-photographing the origami placed on top of the original portrait.

I was interested in the notion of a kind of sci-fi futuristic being who had been enhanced through this “cosmic surgery.” This concept has been given new life by writer Piers Bizony, who has written a fictional text to accompany the second edition of the book. Cosmic surgery is imagined as a medical procedure that people can choose. In a macabre sense it can be used to disguise or hide oneself from increasingly pervasive surveillance. Or, on the more playful side, it is imagined as a method of enhancing or multiplying your most loved features, both a farcical yet scarily plausible premise.

EvH: You wrote in your Kickstarter that Cosmic Surgery envisions “the not too distant future where the world of cosmetic surgery is about to be transformed,” but the “after” images you’ve imagined are unsettling and bizarre for the modern viewer. Doesn’t the project then also envision a transformation of beauty standards, involving the absorption of technology directly into the body?

AH: I guess what we are trying to say with the project, is that technology is always evolving and so is what we consider to be normal. We are not predicting that the future of cosmetic surgery will be this extreme, but it imagines one peculiar version of events when you combine new technologies with a world obsessed with appearance.

EvH: Can you please describe one or two of your favorite images from the collection, and the situation surrounding them? What makes these particularly affecting or special for you?

AH: I think my favorite is Patient no. 5 (above); I always come back to it. I think it might be because my favorite color is green and theres something about the triangle and the little speck of orange eyeliner peaking out underneath the shape that I really like. Also Patient no. 3 (top), is also a favorite of mine. It’s always stood out to me.

EvH: Who are some artists or creatives in any medium whose work gives you joy right now?

AH: I love the work of Erwin Wurm, who works a lot with human sculptures, and staged photographs. I love his weird and wonderful ideas. I also really enjoy the work of Joan Fontcuberta, because he really goes out to challenge the viewer and question what’s reality.

Alma Haser is a Hastings, UK-based photographer. Follow Alma on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Support her Kickstarter project.

Emily von Hoffmann is a Durham, North Carolina-based writer. Follow her on Twitter.