Markus Kirschner

Behind Every Glance

Magibon, “Me Doing Nothing” (2006)

Margaret Lillian Adams, better known as the YouTube personality “Magibon,” is a young American woman living and working as a pharmacy clerk at a Pennsylvania CVS. Her YouTube videos have received over 65 million combined hits. In the majority of her videos (nearly all of which are under one minute), Magibon stares directly into the camera, wide-eyed and smiling. Her first ever YouTube post depicts Magibon, as she puts it, “doing… not really anything.” She wears a tight-fitting t-shirt bearing the Coca-Cola slogan, “The Real Thing.”

According to The Japan Times, Magibon’s huge popularity is in part attributed to the fact that Japanese men adore her big, dark eyes and schoolgirl “cuteness.” They can project their fantasies onto that blank, direct gaze.

Rouben Mamoulian, “Queen Christina” (1933)

Garbo, in the famous final scene of “Queen Christina,” stands at the bow of her ship looking just past the camera, off into the distance. Christina’s lover, Don Antonio, has just died in her arms. She refuses to look back as she sails toward Spain, resolved to make Don Antonio’s home her own.

Legend has it that director Rouben Mamoulian instructed Garbo to think and feel nothing during the shot. He wanted her face to be as open and empty as possible. Garbo’s relaxed brow and tiny smirk remind me of the Mona Lisa. She looks expectant and mournful, triumphant and defeated.

Taking his cue from Mamoulian, Jonathan Glazer pushes in on Nicole Kidman in “Birth.” He holds on the close up of her face for far longer than is comfortable.

Jonathan Glazer, “Birth” (2004)

Kidman’s character has just been told by a young boy that he is the reincarnation of her dead ex-husband. Kidman’s slow blinks, the start of her smirk, the tension in her neck, the turning in when Danny Houston whispers in her ear lead me to wonder: Does she long for her dead husband? Is she repulsed by her fiancé? Is she imagining having sex with the young boy?

Watching these women, I’m reminded of the second part of John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing.”

John Berger, “Ways of Seeing” (1972)

Woe to be a woman.

- Markus Kirschner

  • Alejandra Fabris

    In day to day life I am often shocked as a woman at the glances I get because they remind me of how, contrary to how I feel, I not only “am” but at any given moment I constantly also “look” to people a certain way. It is energy consuming to “look a certain way” and much more comfortable for me to just “be” since “just being” allows me to think my thoughts in peace and not be distracted by what others may be thinking about me—which, in any case, I can never know. I think this is called being yourself.

    As a theater actress, I find that the dynamic is in reality quite similar: un-self-consciousness works best. My own appraisal of my performance can never enter into the picture because this would amount to myself looking upon myself: acting not only is not the occasion for such self-consciousness, on the stage this attitude proves deadly.

    Interestingly enough, what I am actually feeling is not relevant in relation to the quality of my performance. That is to say, it is not necessary to feel the part in order to play the part.

    …Another school of acting will have the actor becoming the persona represented in order to insure a convincing performance but one can argue that this technique invites psychosis.

    In my experience, acting is representative and not transformative. It is true though, that from playing each persona one grows more like the character played because the character is in reality like…me…and…you.

    What did Garbo and Kidman feel when they felt nothing? They felt like some part of themselves.

    To make use of Berger’s distinction between naked and nude in rapport with the work of an actor therefore, I would say that the important thing in acting is to be naked (you) so that the audience can see you nude (the character.)

Ryeberg Curator Bio

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Markus Kirschner is a filmmaker and production designer. Among his credits, he wrote and directed the short film "Communion" and production designed the 2012 documentary "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God," as well as Sundance 2010 selection, "3 Backyards," starring Edie Falco, Elias Koteas and Embeth Davidtz. He holds a B.A. from Bard College and an M.F.A. from Columbia University, New York.