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.
Video description: A white person's hand places a triangular ice wegde underneath an open door. The door swings shut above the triangular shape.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?"
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.
Video description: A white person places a thin and high snow wedge on the open inside of a blue door. The door slowly shuts, and while doing so breaks off the fragile snow wedge that meant to hold it open.
Video description: A white person opens a blue door and places a snow wedge in the opening. With her hands, she pushes the snow to sit in a more stable way in this opening. The door stays open.