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Spike Sweeting

MA work

Killing animals is a skilled job. Far from being a perfunctory task, best achieved by a suspension of humanity or civilisation, slaughtering is embedded within culture, requiring specialist technological and architectural forms. And this without the skills needed to market meat and turn a profit.

‘Taking Stock...’ examines the butchers’ craft in light of the efforts to remove Smithfield Market, London’s only livestock mart, over the course of the 18th and early-19th centuries. Smithfield was subject to mounting criticism during this period, yet despite reformers building a superlative, alternative market, and extolling the sanitary abattoir, butchers clung to their traditional procedures. Asking why these efforts were such a failure, the otherwise marginal world of butchers, and their relationship to Smithfield is exposed.

This dissertation argues that butchers, patronising Smithfield, and their detractors, emerging from the ‘bookish’ public sphere, occupied two separate Londons reconciled by the rapid circulation of commodities, not least meat. As such, attention is given over to the geographical, aesthetic and ideological retraction from Smithfield into the emerging West End that comprised the cultural touchstone of reformers. This provides a basis from which to examine their chiefly architectural proposals. Following this, the aesthetics of cattle and the abattoir provide the basis of analyses of the butchers’ practice, which formed the material and ideological underpinning to their seemingly obdurate position. Modern philosophies, geographies and economies of design are both encountered and contested in this in-depth study, simply by asking why killing animals is a skilled job.

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2009

  • Killing animals is a skilled job. Far from being a perfunctory task, best achieved by a suspension of humanity or civilisation, slaughtering is embedded within culture, requiring specialist technological and architectural forms. And this without the skills needed to market meat and turn a profit.

    ‘Taking Stock...’ examines the butchers’ craft in light of the efforts to remove Smithfield Market, London’s only livestock mart, over the course of the 18th and early-19th centuries. Smithfield was subject to mounting criticism during this period, yet despite reformers building a superlative, alternative market, and extolling the sanitary abattoir, butchers clung to their traditional procedures. Asking why these efforts were such a failure, the otherwise marginal world of butchers, and their relationship to Smithfield is exposed.

    This dissertation argues that butchers, patronising Smithfield, and their detractors, emerging from the ‘bookish’ public sphere, occupied two separate Londons reconciled by the rapid circulation of commodities, not least meat. As such, attention is given over to the geographical, aesthetic and ideological retraction from Smithfield into the emerging West End that comprised the cultural touchstone of reformers. This provides a basis from which to examine their chiefly architectural proposals. Following this, the aesthetics of cattle and the abattoir provide the basis of analyses of the butchers’ practice, which formed the material and ideological underpinning to their seemingly obdurate position. Modern philosophies, geographies and economies of design are both encountered and contested in this in-depth study, simply by asking why killing animals is a skilled job.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) History, University College London, 2005
  • Experience

  • Image Researcher, Royal College of Art, 2008-9; Private Tutor, London, 2006-7; Assistant Record Plugger, Rocket, London, 2005-6
  • Awards

  • Charles Wainwright Prize for Work in Design History, 2008