Interdisciplinary Conference


in Art & Science

27-29 September 2023, Malta Society of Arts, Valletta

The Leech House Series, an exploration of parasitism as symbiotic exchange: research and rituals with Hirudu blood-letting leeches
Event Hours: 27/09/2023 (10:30)
Location: Concert Hall [H]
Ryder Cooley
Keywords: bio-art, parasitism, leeches, ritual, symbiosis

In an existential effort to understand my own parasitism, and to examine the possibility of a more synergistic lifestyle, I've embarked upon an embodied exploration of bloodletting. My research has developed into The Leech House Series, a creative investigation, positing bloodletting as a conceptual antidote to modern consumer medicine.
Leech House is a series of symbiotic transference rituals whereby the human parasite becomes guardian host to the hermaphroditic leech, inviting the leech to feast upon and cleanse the blood with hirudin venom and gender neutralizing verve.

 In these rituals and exchanges, the performer (Ryder) subverts her gender by opting to feed medicinal leeches instead of the human infant-parasite. In turn, the leech offers the medicinal hirudin peptide in this re-presentation of parasitism as a symbiotic exchange.
Leech House is a collaboration with over 12 artists, photographers and videographers who have helped conceptualize, stage and document the rituals. Each collaborator has contributed their own unique ideas and techniques to the project, creating an eclectic portfolio of images and videos.
The proposed Leech House presentation will touch upon several topics, culminating with the performance series:

1. The Art of Humoural Medicine, Bloodletting and Medicine Today

2. Leeches: Shape-Shifting Non-Binary Hermaphrodites
3. Parasitism, Mutualism & Symbiosis, or, How to Be a Good Parasite as Exemplified by Leeches
4. Little Biters with Big Personalities

5. The Leech House Series, project description, photos/videos

The proposed Leech House Art Exhibit/Installation will be a visual presentation of printed photos, video loops, garments, props, and residue from the performance series.

Ryder Cooley

Ryder Cooley is an inter-disciplinary artist, performer, and animal advocate. Weaving together chimeric visions and macabre songs, she creates cinematic performances, bio-art phenomena and visual art manifestations.

In 2014 Ryder founded the accordion-driven dark carnival band Dust Bowl Faeries. Ryder and her band perform frequently with their spirit animal Hazel, a disembodied taxidermy ram (re-gendered in the afterlife).  Ryder holds an MFA from RPI and a BFA from RISD. In 2019 she launched The Leech House Series, a collaborative bio-art project working with medicinal leeches:     password: leechhouse

Ryder has created/presented work at locations including: World Cultural Museum & Museum of Ethnography (Sweden), Sitka Center (Oregon), FEMeeting 2023 (New Mexico), Robert Wilson Watermill Center (NY), National Public Radio (NY), El Paso Museum of Art (Texas), MOMA PS1 (NY), Yerba Buena Center (CA), White Box (NY), McDowell (NH), Yaddo (NY) & LIP French Cultural Center (Indonesia). Ryder is based in the New York Hudson Valley [USA].


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