Ryder Cooley

Featuring Leech House 

Photography by Dina Shirin

Photography by Dina Shirin

Body Habitat performance residue by Ryder Cooley featuring Leech House, a new performance project exploring parasitism and symbiotic exchange  

Leech House installation-performance by Ryder Cooley in collaboration with Dina Shirin (performance/photography), Elise Passavant (videography/photography), Annette Bragas (make-up/photo assistant), Lee Free (sound/consulation)

 Hirudo leeches are unisex aquatic creatures who feed upon mammalian blood. They have been utilized since ancient times in Ayurveda (along with turmeric) and a number of natural medical practices/treatments for their anti-coagulant, anesthetic and anti-inflammatory salivary secretions. Medicinal leeches were harvested to near extinction throughout Europe in the early 1800’s until modern medicine replaced them with synthetic variations.   

 Leech House is a symbiotic transference ritual whereby the human parasite becomes guardian host to the hermaphroditic leech, inviting the leech to feast upon and thereby cleanse her blood with hirudin venom and gender neutralizing verve.

 In this ritual, the performer subverts her gender by opting to feed vampiric leeches with blood, suggesting a departure from the conventional gender mandate to nurture/feed the human infant/parasite via lactation. In exchange, the leech offers the medicinal hirudin peptide in this re-presentation of parasitism as symbiotic practice. The leeches used in this project have been ordered from an ethical leech nursery and are cared for as animal collaborators/companions by the artist.

Leech House Artists & Collaborators

Photography by Dina Shirin

Photography by Dina Shirin


Leech House Artist Biographies

Ryder Cooley is an inter-disciplinary artist, musician and performer. Weaving together chimeric visions with music, movement and imagery, her work places themes of hybridity,  human-animal relations, and environmental awareness within contemporary juxtapositions of wilderness and urban decay. Based in Catskill NY, Ryder performs with the dark carnival band Dust Bowl Faeries and with Hazel, a disembodied taxidermy ram who is summonsed to life through music and performance. Ryder holds an MFA from Rensselaer Polytechnic  and a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.

 Ryder has performed, exhibited and practiced internationally at organizations including: Museum of World Culture (Sweden), El Paso Museum of Art, Robert Wilson Watermill Center, NY MOMA-PS1, White Box & Exit Art galleries, Basilica, Hudson Hall, Dorsky Museum, PS21, Proctors, EMPAC, Yerba Buena Center, Theater Artaud, El Visio Theater (Mexico), McDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center & Yaddo, with additional public art projects in Indonesia, El Salvador, France and the Czech Republic.      
rydercooley.com | dustbowlfaeries.com 

 Leech House Collaborators

 Dina Shirin is a photographer from Riga, Latvia and has been living in New York since 1991. She spends her time working on portrait projects and is drawn to experimental, surrealist compositions. In her work, she explores unpredictable points of view, dreamlike layering of images and organic textures. Dina is a member of the CMC photography collective in New York and a contributor to the Paris based group Foto Femme United. She's exhibited her photographs in group shows in Chelsea and Tribeca in New York. 
dshirin.carbonmade.com  |  Instagram

 Annette Bragas is a freelance Hair & Makeup Artist based in New York and London. She graduated from London College of Fashion and specializes in film, music, theater and beauty/fashion.

Elise Passavant is a Filmmaker, editor, photographer, VJ and video manipulator who straddles the underground music video/alternative art scenes as well as mainstream media. Her video shorts have been showcased in international film festivals from Europe to Japan.

 Lee Free is a drummer/composer from Brooklyn NY who works in multiple genres and specializes in sound scores for video, live dance and animation.