Rituals Against Barriers

Rituals against Barriers is a project we developed during our research for the workshop Research Refusal, and it consists of a poster, a series of material experiments, a newspaper contribution and an academic article for the open access online journal aprja.

In front of an open door lies a triangular form made out of snow. Beneath this snow wedge is a tiled floor. Door, wedge and floor are cut out from a photograph and float on the white background of the website.

Overview

Rituals against Barriers is inspired by the multiple practices of survival in the face of oppression which take the form of ritual practice. Rituals can invite a stepping away from whatever normativities and can allow entry into practices such as: Refusing to ignore a feeling, refusing to not listen to your body because doing so would make apparent the ableism of any space, refusing to speed up even if that is the normalised tempo. Rituals can be moments of joy, of refusal, collective practice, of uncomfort and unlearning. Rituals are often a pathologized aspect of a lived disability experience (what makes something a ritual and not a habit?). One example of this is stimming, the repetition of movements or sounds that one finds calming or joyful.

Selected Rituals

On a poster, small blocks of text are spread out and each accompanied by the cut-out visual of a different kind of wedge. For example, the left upper wedge is made of wood, and the headline next to it reads „Non-normative access practices & access as practice, not as solution“.

Ritual for Bad Listening

Take a piece of paper or your smartphone and for 5 minutes, write down every sound that you hear and/or sense (the humming of the heater, the chirping of a bird, the temperature in the room, the brightness of the light). Repeat this ritual in different settings if possible. When and where are you comfortable with listening/sensing? Do you listen/sense deeper with time? Are any of the things you hear/sense an access barrier for you or for someone you know? You can use this ritual as a way of checking in with a new space. This ritual is based on a text by Jonathan Smilges.

Ritual for Questioning Institutions

Next time you are at an institution of any sort: academic, immigration, medical, juridical, transport take note of who is present. Why are they there? What are they doing? Who isn't there? What would be different if those missing people were there too?

Ritual for Doors

You can perform this ritual when you are standing or sitting in a door frame. Trace the frame and dimensions of the door with your eyes or hands. Ask, depending on bravery, situation and voice, loudly or in your head: "Is this door open for" + "X". For X, choose or add: disabled people, wheelchair users, trans* people, Black people, neurodivergent people, poor people, people of color, queer people. If not, make a commitment to open it.

Ritual for tending to the "not perceivable"

From Undrowned by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, spend time with the question: "What becomes possible when we are immersed in the queerness of forms of life that dominant systems cannot chart, reward or even understand?"

Wedges

With the idea of driving wedges into ableist conditions, we have created wedges out of different materials in order to question who and what fits. With Rituals against Barriers we drive these wedges into systemic practices that ignore difference. A wedge is a triangular shape or cone that has a thick tapering to a thin edge. It can secure or separate objects such a door and a door frame, or one piece of wood into two or more. Wedges that hold some doors open in varying angles and shut others are interesting for barrier reducing work. For this project, we have focused on doors as devices that determine access into physical spaces. Acknowledging that not every wedge can create access through every door, we have engaged the wedge as a difference making device that can make accessing spaces possible in otherwise closed systems.

A triangular shaped wedge made out of ice is slid underneath a metal and wooden door frame, thus holding the door open.
A closeup photo shows a triangular shaped ice wedge that is slid underneath the copper coloured metal door, thus stopping the door from closing.
On a white background, two hands of a white person hold a wedge made out of snow. The hands are slightly red from the cold, and the snow wedge’s underside is covered in dirt from having been placed on the ground before.
On this photo, the ice wedge sits between ground and door frame, thus holding the wooden and metal door open. On the right, a part of a brown doormat is visible.