"Give shit back the value it deserves," is the motto of Italy’s ‘Shit Museum’. Located within the Castelbosco Farm in Piacenza, North Italy, The Shit Museum is an unusual and peculiar art project founded by farm owner Gianantonio Locatelli. A stark departure from his usual day job of overseeing the 2500 bovines as they produce milk for the Grana Padano cheese, Locatelli seeks in his spare time to see the vast amount of natural waste produced by the cows put to good use.
In this novel ecological project and unusual collaboration between Locatelli and Luca Cipelletti, Gaspare Luigi Marcone and Massimo Valsecchi, the museum hosts a collection of biomechanics and environmental art. Locatelli utilises the latest in technology to transform bovine poop into methane, fertiliser for the fields, and material for plaster and bricks, whilst reducing atmospheric pollution and the distribution of nitrates in the soil.
The dung beetle, considered a divine animal by the Egyptians, is used as the symbol of the museum – notably apt as it seeks to showcase the use of excrement in architectural constructions in the most far-flung cultures of the planet, from the ancient Italian civilisations to Africa, through historical-literary works such as the Naturalis Historia, by Pliny the Elder. The dialogue between nature and art remains the centre of the Museum's conception: technology, culture and environment play a dominant role, but the main protagonist remains the shit.
Giulia Catani: Gianantonio, Where did the idea for the Shit Museum come from?
Gianantonio Locatelli: It's a project that was born a few years ago with the intention of creating visual art out of the shit; a place where the transformation of shit has become part of the farm’s work.
GC: Behind its funny and ironic name, there is a reality of continuous ecological research and environmental, containing works dating back to antiquity. What is the most significant work of the museum?
GL: The most significant work of the museum is the Castelbosco hut [inspired by the ‘hut of the Villanovan era’ reproduced in the Margherita Gardens in Bologna by researchers of the Museo Civico Archeologico] made with clay bricks, animal dung and straw. The shit, the circularity and straw represent the natural circle of death and life.
GC: In a few words, can you explain the process in the transformation of manure?
GL: The manure, through the technique of Biogas, becomes partially methane; by burning this in the engine, it creates green electricity. The heat recovered from the engine goes on to heat the houses, museum and stables of Castelbosco; everything that comes from that becomes organic fertiliser, brick, plaster and other things.
GC: Nowadays, everything is in constant development and evolution: do you think this will also happen in your company?
GL: We are just at the beginning and I think that the value of the museum and the company [will] attract a lot of new artists.
To find out more about these projects: http://www.theshitmuseum.org/
Words: Giulia Catani
Image source: The Shit Museum