Shelter in Place, Adam W. McKinney

Photo Credit: OJMCHE
Asylum Arts has long believed that the voices of artists are an important aspect of meaningful social change, even more so in this challenging moment in our world. As part of that commitment, we are very pleased to partner with The Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education on Shelter in Place, a site-specific window installation by alum Adam W. McKinney. The project was supported by CANVAS and organized by the Council of American Jewish Museums. It is one part of “Dwelling in a Time of Plagues,” a larger project exploring Sukkot and Justice with additional installations at The Jewish History Museum in Tucson and the Holocaust Museum Los Angeles.
Shelter in Place is a film, photography, and dance-based interrogation of the social tenets of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot—departing and dwelling, expressing and atoning, striking and shaking. A Black Jewish response to histories of oppression, Shelter in Place is an inquiry into social isolation and the physical and emotional effects of anti-Black racial violence across time and space.
Adam W. McKinney seeks to bring awareness to the impact of oppression and to the vestiges of historical trauma. In Shelter in Place, he deconstructs the sukkah (the temporary dwelling built for Sukkot) to expose the complexities of the global movement to eradicate racism. With Shelter in Place, McKinney asks, “How do we heal? And how can we use art to move in the direction of liberation?”
In SCAB, McKinney, in collaboration with Diné photographer Will Wilson, has created tintype photographs to examine the impact of racial terror and violence across time. McKinney uses his own body to remember and localize the experience of Fort Worth, Texas racial terror lynching victim Mr. Fred Rouse.
In Glorious Clouds videographer Roma Flowers films McKinney in a dance that evokes the clouds of glory that God provided the Israelites when leaving Egypt. The dance is an expression of protection and shelter in response to the threat of historical and contemporary violence against Black people. Musician Najeeb Sabour’s composition, “The Bird Song,” accompanies the video.

In Unfolding History, McKinney performs a dance at the sites associated with the racial terror lynching of Mr. Fred Rouse. Archival footage from the late 19th century, a 1922 Fort Worth KKK parade, and silent film text are matched with atmospheric sounds and music favored by the KKK in the early 20th century. In Unfolding History, McKinney says, “I explore representations of Blackness and the possibility of transporting and transforming my body across space and time juxtaposing pain, healing, trauma, recovery, frailty, and strength.”
Glorious Clouds
Videographer and Editor – Roma Flowers
Theater Technician – Jeff Stanfield
Dramaturg – Daniel Banks
Musician and Composer – Najeeb Sabour
Production Assistant – Liam Evans
Unfolding History
Unfolding History premiered in September 2020, commissioned as part of the reflect / project exhibition at the subCulture Lab at Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City, Missouri.
Videography – Will Wilson
Costume – Murell Horton
Editor – Adam W. McKinney
Dramaturg – Daniel Banks
Photographer – Will Wilson
Assistants – Carol Davis, Lillian Young, Lucy Young
Dramaturg – Daniel Banks
Special Thanks
Jody Alweis, Sophie Alweis, Susan Austin, Alisha Babbstein, Kathleen Culebro, Amphibian Stage Productions, Maggie Heath, Troy Lambert, Renana Neuman, Robert Rouse, Zeus Hope Walton

All installation photos are courtesy of the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education

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