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Interview with Alma Haser

Interview with Alma Haser

07.03.16 - 07.05.16

 Alma Haser, Alexandra, from the series 'Cosmic Surgery'

Alma Haser, Alexandra, from the series 'Cosmic Surgery'

Alma Haser, Alexandra, from the series 'Cosmic Surgery'

 Alma Haser, Lottie, from the series 'Cosmic Surgery', 2012 - 2016

Alma Haser, Lottie, from the series 'Cosmic Surgery', 2012 - 2016

Alma Haser, Lottie, from the series 'Cosmic Surgery', 2012 - 2016

 Alma Haser, Luke, from the series 'Cosmic Surgery', 2012 - 2016

Alma Haser, Luke, from the series 'Cosmic Surgery', 2012 - 2016

Alma Haser, Luke, from the series 'Cosmic Surgery', 2012 - 2016

INFO

Working across collage, origami and photography, Alma Haser’s photography is both playful and unsettling. Her series Cosmic Surgery received significant international exposure when it first launched in 2013, with the first edition of the photobook selling out in a matter of days. Alma has been working over the past two years to expand the series and to create a second edition of the publication. In line with announcing Alma’s representation with The Photographers’ Gallery Print Sales, Sarah Allen sat down with the artist to chat about Cosmic Surgery and her broader practice.

Could you speak a little about your background in photography?

I have always been interested in Japanese culture, films and stories. I began using origami in my graduation project after becoming fascinated by the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who became sick with leukaemia and started folding 1000 paper cranes, which in Japanese culture is said to grant your wish. She folded 644 before she died, but to this day people from all over the world fold a chain of a 1000 paper cranes and lay them on her grave. I was taken by the sadness of this story and the meaning behind the ritual of folding.

Could you explain a little more about the concept behind Cosmic Surgery?

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 the not so distant future. 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.

That’s what I find so engaging about the project – its engagement with the notion of how the human species might develop in the future and the notion of transhumanism. Is there any sci-fi writing or film that has particularly inspired you?

I was inspired by Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series and The Scanner Darkly, Minority Report too.

Your work is concerned with moving from 2D to 3D and then back to 2D. What do you think this brings to the images, aesthetically and conceptually?

When I first created the series, it was more practical to re-photograph the picture and turn it back into 2D. I was always sad to flatten the image and not let people see the beautiful 3D shapes I had created from the sitter’s face, however I also enjoyed the reaction that people had with the 2D photographs. A lot of people thought the effect was achieved through Photoshop or collage until they saw the shadow the origami creates on the person’s face. 

I then came up with the idea of doing the pop-up book and letting the pictures become sculptural again, which triggered the project’s progression and new direction. I am also now experimenting with 3D photographic sculpture and ways in which I might display this sculptural work.

Are there other artists working in a multidisciplinary way that inspire you?

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’s Kickstarter project to support the production of the second edition of her photobook Cosmic Surgery runs until 25 March. More information can be found here.

 


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