Mary Pratt, Chantal Akerman/meat

I recently watched Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles for the first time, and I thought it was excellent. The film reminded me of the work of Canadian painter Mary Pratt, who also often represents kitchens and food prep.

The two artists were geographically remote from one another, but fairly contemporaneous, and some of the similarity between their kitchens is just because the 1970s looked like the 1970s. However, I think there’s also a more substantial kinship between Pratt and Akerman, with several good points of comparison between the film and the domestic paintings.

Here’s one continuity: both artists put meat – often raw meat, in the kitchen, in the process of being prepared for consumption – in frame, finding visual interest in the counter and the sink. For Pratt, the meat is usually fish: whole fish or fish heads or fish fillets that smear the saran wrap with blood. In Jeanne Dielman, it’s usually part of a cow: breaded veal prepared in real time, or a meatloaf being folded and massaged with slightly embellished sound. Mundane and unbearable.

Side note: Canada is mentioned in Jeanne Dielman; it’s the source of the letter from Aunt Fernande.

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