#CripRitual is a virtual, multi-sited, participatory art exhibition exploring themes of disability culture and ritual seeking to “make apparent the shared cultural meanings circulating in crip communities.”

#CripRitual was created by Aimi Hamraie, Cassandra Hartblay and Jarah Moesch from the Critical Design Lab, a collaborative of disabled artists, designers, researchers, and allies in collaboration with Tangled Art+Disability and the Doris McCarthy Gallery.

“I hope that audiences get a sense of how ritual themes, such as repetition, structure, connection, and building power play such a strong role in disability culture, and are part of why disability communities are at the forefront of shaping our collective means of survival,” said Hamraie, director of Critical Design Lab.

Hamraie says this is particularly apparent in a global pandemic, when many are isolated and forced to decide between getting their needs met and risking harm: “Disability communities have the expertise and experiences to address these tensions,” Hamraie said. 

“We find ways to connect across long distances, whether in digital or analog forms, while also maintaining a commitment to protecting those amongst us who are immunocompromised, high-risk, or face other access barriers,” Hamraie said. “Combining these two is an act of love, and we hope that the exhibition can model this sensibility for our visitors.” 

Collage: Soft Magic (affirmation card), Margeaux Feldman (2021). Collaged affirmation card

The word crip is a reclaimed form of the word “cripple,” which some disabled people use to describe their own identity or community, often in response to ableist social imperatives. Rituals are a feature of all human societies in history, including prayers, ceremonies, and rites of passage; they are practices that transform and draw together social worlds. The work is titled as a hashtag to draw attention to how concepts circulate in digital spaces.

#CripRitual consists of works by artists Cassidy Bankson, Faye Harnest, Earl LeBlanc, Dawn McLeod, Malcolm and Maria Corley, Margeaux Feldman, Maryam Hafizirad, Logan and Hannah Quinn, Hannah Sheehan, and Jessica Watkin.

A collection of twenty drawings by Bankson, Harnest, LeBlanc and McLeod adapts the “exquisite corpse” game (where every member takes turns adding to a shared image) into a habit of drawing with one another as an access practice. Each artist used their own medium, including digital, pastel, and collage. During a time of omnipresent (often inaccessible) screens, the artists shared a collaborative drawing to anchor themselves in space and build relationships. 

“On the curatorial side, the grounding in access—for each other, for our artists, for our guests—in-person and online, live and asynchronously is so very refreshing, especially compared to the constant ableism in the rest of my life,” said Moesch, a core member of the Critical Design Lab. 

“Access needs are met, and are re-met as they change for individuals. Then that also changes access for the group as well, and we negotiate those needs as they arrive,” Moesch said.

#CripRitual installation view (2022), Tangled Art Gallery. Photo by Michelle Peek Photography and courtesy of Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology & Access to Life, Re•Vision: The Centre for Art & Social Justice at the University of Guelph

This ethos is reflected in Watkin’s “Knitting to Listen,” a performance piece addressing the artist’s way of focusing on audiobooks, which she uses for academic reading since losing her vision in her late teenage years before starting an English and Theatre degree. The work shows how access hacks and work-arounds become ritualized by way of repetition.

The art experience of yarn, fibers, knitting needles, and audio elements includes scarves Watkin made while listening, and each scarf is tagged with the name of a book. #CripRitual provides a full description of how to approach the work—often a challenge for newcomers in a gallery—and even how to touch the various elements, welcoming visitors into a tactile knitting project.

Knitting to Listen: https://cripritual.com/watkin/

Tactile emphasis continues in Hafizirad’s installation “The Story of My World,” whose brightly glazed ceramic hands with dripping gold tell a tale of coming to sign language as an adult “referencing the preciousness and magic of signed communication.” There is even a hand you are allowed to hold.

To keep community members safe and ensure audiences could access the art in COVID-19, Bankson worked with graduate student Miggy Esteban to build a virtual exhibition. The Tangled gallery offers live virtual tours and Moesch curated care packages for tour-goers. With so much emphasis on love and care, even #CripRitual’s online sessions and temporary exhibits become accessible spaces of connection.

#CripRitual is on exhibition at the Doris McCarthy Gallery, Tangled Art Gallery, and virtually until Apr 1, 2022.

Mar 26, 2022
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