Our modern Western perception of the world drives us to divide lines and shapes into two great antithetical groups; on the one hand, the curved lines and on the other, the straight ones. If the former instinctively recall an idea of organic unity, of a living and genuine shape, the latter can not but suggest the regularity programmed by humans, i.e. artificiality. 

Humanity has traditionally made the physical  body a place of dialogue between these two groups of forms, but we feel more than often revulsion by the modification of the flesh into regular geometric shapes. This is one of the principal questions issued by German artist Alma Haser with "Cosmic Surgery", a series of peculiar portraits recently exhibited at The Photographers' Gallery in London; what makes special her works is the dialogue between photographic portraiture and papercraft skills, a practice that leads to the production of what she defines as "futuristic flattened-paper sculptures". The sitters' faces mechanically blossom, showing themselves as regularly shaped origamis that swap the position of eyes, nose and mouth. The result is alienating, even uncanny; if in some cases we find ourselves in front of images recalling historic Cubist works, in others, we can't help but feeling disturbed because of the unnatural patterns.

These portraits address the perception of our bodies in an increasingly artificial world, where we are pushed to adapt even our own concepts to quantitative logics; they implicitly invite the visitors to redefine their standards of beauty, pushing the boundaries set by modern cosmetic surgery's possibilities. This is not just in relation to how we want to be perceived by other persons in real life, but also by digital cameras; since 2012, many people requested for cosmetic procedures aimed to make our faces more fitted to being captured on digital cameras, something slightly but crucially different from traditional cosmetic operations. The machines subtly ask us to replicate their mathematically perfect shapes in order to make our aspects more attractive in our selfies. As previously noted, this adaptation regards our own conceptions and approaches as well; talking about the allocation of time, in our post-industrial age workers, especially if self-employed, are pushed to set and manage their behaviours and rhythms as binary tasks ("done"/"not done") which make us part of a wider cyborg system in which machines' purposes and humans' functions are intertwined and indivisible from each other. As we noted, it's the artist herself who defines these works as "futuristic"; the straight line is the future and our round bodies are called to follow this trend if they don't want to be left behind, nostalgically curved and not fitted to work along with the machines. (FL)

 Cosmic Surgery has been exhibited in the Print Sales Gallery of The Photographer's Gallery (London) from July 8th to August 14th 2016:

 Rudolf Arnheim on the distinction between straight and curved lines: "Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye" (p. 183)

Alma Haser's website:

 An example of a Haser piece reminiscent of Cubism:

 Another Haser piece; in this case, it inspires a sense of uncanniness:

 Social media-motivated plastic surgery: 

One of the many guides online on how to manage time and tasks in a productive way: 

Stelarc is one of the most mentioned artists among the ones who worked on the boundaries between cyborgs and humans:

 Plastic surgery has been studied by artist Orlan, whose modifications of her own flesh recall Haser's works:

What is cyborgism and why is becoming an important field of research in these years: