‘Hirudo’ is a collaborative work by Irina Starkova and Samuel Padfield exploring the ubiquity of quasi-medical aesthetic practices and the fetishization of cosmetic procedures. The resulting self-styled commercial is an inquiry into the tangibility of achieving physical improvements and the antithetical fragility of flesh in response to invasive treatment.
Feeding into post-digital notions of postproduction and narcissistic proclivities, we created a spoof commercial on the benefits of leech therapy. Parodying infomercials and YouTube self-improvement videos, we used storytelling, branding and brochures to relay dubious claims to health benefits.
The project was part of a site-specific installation at The Old Operating Theatre, one of the oldest surviving medical theatres in London where leeches were widely used for reconstructive surgery and blood-letting, a practice believed to purify the blood and prevent illness. Today, the use of medical grade leeches is predominantly reserved for to the field of aesthetics and alternative therapy.
‘Hirudo’ explores medical aesthetics as spectacle and draws on consumerist logic of needing to witness blood and the exteriority of the procedure in order to study the manipulation of consumer desires.