Craig Walsh


Gold Coast Art Gallery, Gold Coast, Australia, 2006


‘Parasitism’ has been developed based on the projects defined objectives, that is: to reside in the national parks of the Gold Coast hinterland for approximately two weeks and present or interpret the outcomes of that experience within the parameters of the Gold Coast art Gallery.

During the residency, wet weather dominated the two-week period spent residing, filming and trekking through the Binna Burra and Green Mountain national parks. These moist conditions inturn stimulated armies of leeches on the search for unsuspecting hosts. Their persistence and success in tapping into my blood stream and effectively ingesting several times their own weight in ‘my blood’ generated further interest in the leech and more importantly an awareness of shared habitats and issues arising from this type of co-existence.

Given the extreme contrast between the two habitats chosen for this project (the national parks and the gallery), developing a parasitism (parasitic/host relationship) between the natural and the man made cultural institution became the basis for the development of this artwork and the leech provides a conduit, linking these distant worlds.

This single channel video projection simulates oversize leeches utilizing architecture and specifically the Gold Coast Gallery wall as the host for their parasitic activities. The physical link between the two sites through the leeches apparent ability to burrow into the fabric of the gallery wall, further explores the complex issues arising as the built environment encroaches on the natural environment. This work attempts to integrate these two distant environments forming a parasitism between the organic and architectural habitats, further exploring the tensions between the urban and natural environments through a juxtaposition of habitats and the subversion of architectural function. I also wanted to provide an alternative view and a new function for the structure and responsibility of architecture as it is now presented as a leaking, bleeding, organic system.

The overriding need for the human species to construct habitats which are designed to physically alienate and control the interaction we have with other living things within our urban spaces is of cause futile as the human body is constantly engaged in parasitic relationships with a range of organisms. This work references the many parasitic relationships taking place around us, (seen and unseen) whilst presenting an optimistic view of natures ability to survive, evolve and respond to changing habitats.


The Australian land leech has two jaws and makes a V-shaped incision. Australian leeches can vary in size from about 7 mm long to as much as 200 mm when extended. When a jawed leech bites it holds the sucker in place by making its body rigid. Using its semi circular and many toothed jaws like minute saws, it then makes an incision in the skin and excretes a mucous from the nephropores (external openings from the kidney-like organs). This helps the sucker to adhere. A salivary secretion containing the anticoagulant and a histamine floods the wound and the leech relaxes its body to allow the blood to be ingested. This mixture allows the blood to flow and also prevents clotting once inside the leech. A bacterium in the gut of the leech assists the digestion of the blood, and it has been shown that the type of bacterium varies with the type of host on which the leech feeds. The bacterium also prevents growth of other bacteria which may cause the ingested blood to putrefy.

Single channel DVD projection
Duration: 20 minutes