The Castelbosco farm, in the province of Piacenza, in the north of Italy, works to produce milk for Grana Padano cheese. It is home to 2,500 super-efficient, selected pedigree bovines that every day produce around 30,000 litres of milk and some 100,000 kilos of dung. A quantity of poop that the farm owner, Gianantonio Locatelli has transformed into a futuristic ecological and industrial project.
Today, from that muck, he obtains methane, fertiliser for the fields,as well as raw material for plaster and bricks. And he does so using the latest technology which, as well as reducing atmospheric pollution and the distribution of nitrates in the soil, follows a principle that redesigns the cycle of nature to form a virtuous circle. Giving shit back the value it deserves. And restoring to agriculture and cattle-rearing the importance they always had.
Humanity, nature, art and technology. The Shit Museum is the upshot of understanding and dialogue between Locatelli with Luca Cipelletti, Gaspare Luigi Marcone and Massimo Valsecchi. It brings together biomechanics and environmental art, the agricultural landscape, the system of digesters that turn manure into energy, and the ground floor of the late-medieval castle
of Castelbosco – kept warm thanks to the heat exchange of the engines that generate energy from poop-produced methane.
Home to a series of installations in continuous evolution, dedicated to transformation, the ability to transmute natural substances and re-establish a healthier relationship between man and nature. Themes that were once the stuff of alchemists, and which are now at the basis of a project that does away with cultural norms and pre-concepts.
In the museum spaces and castle rooms – and in their digital version – those aesthetic and scientific, human and animal, modern-day and yesteryear experiences are and will be on show, displaying what a useful and living substance crap really is.
In both practical and metaphorical terms. From the dung beetle, considered a divine animal by the Egyptians (and symbol of the museum), to the use of excrement in architectural constructions in the most far- flung cultures of the planet, from the ancient Italian civilisations to Africa, via historical-literary works such as the Naturalis Historia by Pliny the Elder, right up to the latest scientific research projects and artistic production drawing on the use and reuse of waste. A contemporary cabinet of curiosities which finds its guiding light in the art and science of transformation.
Few phenomena are so rich in material and conceptual complexity as the cultural history of shit. The Shit Museum is an agency for change, a research and data-collection institute, housing documents and information on excrement in culture, technology and history. And it also has an enzymatic role: it dialogues with artists, scientists and institutions on ideas and projects linked to the value of faeces and its endless uses, both current and yet to be imagined.
De rerum natura: of the nature of things. Of its becoming something else, be it art or technology, Castelbosco is overall – the farm and museum – an ecological workshop of anticipation: a fertilising machine, a station for the production of power and ideas, situated halfway between the ideal and the material. Which sublimes the essence of dung, muck and crap. The mirror of a great plan which draws life and energy from a material erroneously considered worthless.
The Shit Museum, a deliberately provocative definition, yet sufficiently explicative to embrace the idea of a major project that marries tradition and innovation, art and technology, and which justifies the founding of a Museum. Castelbosco, Gianantonio Locatelli’s farm, is a place of interest, innovation and research, and an experience to be shared: a Museum. Locatelli’s intuition of reusing the organic waste from his own farm to produce methane, as well as material for bricks and plaster, led to the implementation of a cutting-edge ecological project.
The idea of reuse has always gone hand in hand with the agricultural world. In this case, it is manure which is transformed into other elements, thus producing innovation. Here, poop is precious, for it is the basis nourishing information and cultural enrichment, as well as being the main theme and substance from which the Museum takes its name.
A new idea of a Museum thus comes about in which scientific research, technology, art and production join forces to stimulate interest at various levels: Castelbosco constitutes a stimulating place for all those interested in the farming of food crops, history, art or issues connected to ecology.
The Museum starts from the outside, on the farm itself, and it is here that the value of the project is reflected in the interventions of artists such as David Tremlett and Anne & Patrick Poirier. These works coordinate the space, stimulate reflections and amplify the conceptual, metaphorical and productive vision which lies at the heart of the Castelbosco farm.
The ground floor of the Castle, renovated with conservational interventionsof a largely structural nature, hosts a part of the Museum in which conceptual materials and installations are displayed, giving a concrete introduction to the use and value of dung – the display cases, the piping left in sight carrying the heat generated by the production of methane, and the construction materials like plaster and bricks.
Of central importance in this display are the themes of reuse and stratification: alongside the dung, constantly reused and thus part of an infinite life cycle which confers a sense of poetry to the material, waste materials and recycled objects (like the original castle doors, farmyard working tools, old generation iPads and iMacs) are reused as display media, their original purpose and function completely transformed. The partially dung-clad iron display cases form a continuum with all the structural interventions, and are a integral part of the environment, a material and volumetric stratification which derives from and feeds off its own context.
The Shit Museum will expand in three dimensions: not only will it remain a physical space to visit, but also a virtual space and an ever-evolving reality. The contents of the Museum will also be loaded onto its online platform,
a website which allows for direct and broad interaction with the public, as well as the constant updating of activities, projects and initiatives.
At the same time, this is a touring Museum, showing how a third dimension is possible: that of a widespread museum. In this sense, it is a museum that grows thanks to the sharing of its contents with kindred spirits, thanks to its coming face to face with other curious individuals, with whom to undertake a range of projects; the upshot is that of ongoing collaborations with public and private museum institutions, universities, archives and research centres.
On the contemporary museum panorama, this reality stands as a multidisciplinary variant, and in this sense highly meaningful.