Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Sadhbh McLoughlin Áine O'Hara.

Opinion The world wants us to go back to normal after the pandemic. Maybe we need to rest instead

Artist Áine O’Hara has created the Rest Rooms, where rest is a form of resistance – here, she explains the background to the installation.

DISABLED, CHRONICALLY ILL and neurodiverse people are often infantilised – we are seen purely as care receivers, instead of the caregivers and care experts that we are.

We keep each other alive when everyone else has forgotten about us. And my disabled community and I are expert problem solvers, because we have to be.

Your medical card was denied? – Ok I know the right words, I’ll help you appeal.

In a pain flare and out of meds? – I will pick myself up off the bathroom floor where I have been vomiting, and bring you my last pill.

Desperate and need to go to A&E? I will wait the 16 hours at the hospital with you and fight the doctors when they try to send you home.

But the infantilised view of us couldn’t be more blatant than it is in Ireland right now. As the pandemic continues, the majority of the world has prioritised ‘getting back to normal’ over our lives once again.

Many hoped that in the face of a global catastrophe that we would come together to support each other and rage against the structures that are killing us. As we entered this catastrophic pandemic phase, there was hope, flexibility around work, art and access to these things.

Many chronically ill and disabled people had more accessibility and flexibility than ever before – things we were told weren’t possible for years suddenly happened. Immunocompromised people were actually less sick as masks and isolation meant the flu practically disappeared.

But many of the most vulnerable in our society – many of whom find themselves in poverty due to the cost of having a disability, which is between €9k – €12k a year – continue to be treated as disposable as we move into this stage of complete pandemic denial.

All so everyone else can get back to ‘normal’.

Rest as resistance

But what is normal? And why on earth do we want to go back there?

Now that we’re in this new period of people wanting to get ‘back to normal’, I’ve had to harness my problem-solving skills and think: what is it we need to help us in this phase? 

If we want to build a world for us all, we need to stop the discarding of people who can’t work and reevaluate what we see as valuable.

In a world where capitalism demands our bodies, our labour, our time, to rest is an act of resistance.

Rest is having a space to be ourselves and relax. For me, rest is prioritising spending time with our community, making work that focuses on disabled joy rather than endlessly describing our illnesses and traumas.

So with this in mind, as an artist I have spent the last few months creating The Rest Rooms – a mini festival of rest taking place at The Kevin Barry Rooms in the National Concert Hall from 10-14 September.

I did this because I was tired of seeing our fellow artists leave us behind, get rid of live streaming and mask wearing and remote access to meetings, workshops and art.

I was tired of having to explain to them that yes, there is still a pandemic and yes, I am still sick and vulnerable. I was tired of being excluded from arts and theatre spaces. I was tired. How did we end up less safe now than we were in March 2020?

So the rest rooms are a creative gathering of hope, joy and community for disabled, D/deaf, chronically ill, neurodiverse people and anyone who wants to relax with us to come together for a series of workshops, talks, social and quiet spaces of rest, rage and revelry.

The idea centres around an installation space (in person and online), a place in the centre of Dublin where you can come and rest for free (imagine!).

There will be comfortable seating, water, snacks and a place to charge your phone. This place itself is an act of resistance within a city and a country that does everything it can to get rid of us.

An invitation

To my disabled, chronically ill, neurodiverse community: I know you are wrecked. I know you are filling out form after form, cooking meals for each other and sharing meds, creating spaces for each other, creating the access documents for venues that should be making them themselves, going to each others doctors appointments and researching each others conditions and filling the gaps in every single place the state and capitalism has failed us.

I know you are a problem solver, I know you are good in a crisis.

I invite you to come and rest with us.

I invite you into a space that has been made by us and for us.

We need each other now more than ever. There is nothing more powerful than community. Sick crip community. There is strength in simply knowing one another exists. Teaching each other how to survive and resist. Ireland is hostile and we are tired. This is a place for us to connect, strategise and recharge.

A space for us to dream and find a way to save us all.

Áine O’Hara is a queer, chronically ill and autistic artist. The Rest Rooms is created by Áine and a team of disabled, chronically ill and neurodiverse artists and collaborators. It runs from September 10 – 14, 11am – 7pm daily, with in-person and online events. View the full programme here. Co-commissioned by the Abbey Theatre and Dublin Fringe Festival. Supported by the Arts Council’s Arts and Disability Connect Scheme managed by Arts & Disability Ireland. For the full details, visit the Dublin Fringe Festival website.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel