Mike Zahn, Todo y Nada online exhibition, (detail), 2020 (screenshot by the author)

Years ago when I was teaching art survey courses in Los Angeles, I would say to my students: “Just be here, now.” I was requesting their presence, in all its valences and pockets: emotional, intellectual, aspirational, sensual, attentional, etc. Being somewhere can be an intentional act — if you decide to show up.

Mike Zahn’s Todo y Nada (Everything and Nothing), an online exhibition via the Shrine, demonstrates the brick wall impediment to this key act of will: Because of the strictures put in place to suppress our global pandemic, we can’t show up. We aren’t allowed to be present where our colleagues, mentors, and friends are. We are in front of a screen, peering at our collective shadowed selves.

Mike Zahn, Todo y Nada online exhibition, (detail), 2020 (screenshot by the author)

Zahn offers images of Shrine’s empty gallery projected in the empty space — what I might have just walked by in another time. The show is both meta and melancholy. I could be there. And so sadly looking at the life I might have, someone could ask me what’s wrong. “Nothing,” I would say, reflexively, to stave off my own grief. Zahn projects these images to outsource his own desolation. “No. I’m not crying,” he seems to say. “You’re crying.”

Todo y Nada continues online indefinitely via the Shrine gallery.

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Seph Rodney, PhD, is the opinions editor and managing editor of the Sunday Edition for Hyperallergic and has written for the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and other publications. He is featured on…

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