Energy is one of the main themes of The Shit Museum: suffice to think of the eco-sustainable production of biogas and therefore of electric energy through the recycling of manure. Many of the rooms deal with themes linked to energy – and thus also of heat and light – both from a project-based/experimental point of view (for example, take the installation of bio-luminescent bacteria) and from a metaphorical-cultural stance (see the room dedicated to the dung beetle, likened to Khepri, the Egyptian godhead of the ‘rising sun’). In actual fact, these concepts and projects intertwine and merge into one another seamlessly throughout the display itinerary. David Tremlett, among the very first artists to collaborate with Gianantonio Locatelli, produced his first intervention on an electricity pylon at the entrance to the estate, with the words “Why to toss it, if you can reuse it?”.
The theme of energy is also the protagonist in a specific room of the late-medieval castle of Castelbosco. In this room, in the past, the milk churns of the ancient nearby stables were stored. The churns are on display both as ‘artefacts’ of local history and also as ‘recycled’ objects: stools on which to experience audio-visual works. The loading and unloading platform of the milk churns is now occupied by the ‘control unit’ and ‘manifold’ of the heating system, deliberately left in view, almost like a futuristic ‘metallic intestine’ from which the finned pipes spread out along the walls of the castle that give off heat. Basically, the processing of biogas produces great quantities of hot water, which once channelled and distributed, becomes a primary source for the – free – heating of the rooms of the castle and other rooms besides. What’s more, the finned pipes are also the protagonists of an intervention by the light designer Alberto Pasetti, who decided to use them as a perimetric ‘light source’, a common thread which highlights the very morphology of the energy exchangers, at the same time unleashing a luminous flow that perceptively ‘chisels’ the ancient irregularities of the supporting walls of the building. Also in this case, there are various levels of interpretation; suffice to think of the light-heat coupling given by the prehistorical discovery of fire: one which lies at the very basis of much of human evolution. A pile of brushwood faggots – a primordial source of light and heat – which was found in the castle chambers, has also been preserved.
And so this room also appeared to be the ideal setting for the display of the work Gazometres (1966-1976) by the German artists Bernd & Hilla Becher, who for decades and with extreme objectivity photographed the production sites of the modern era (gasometers, water towers, blast furnaces, reservoirs and extraction towers), following a serial taxonomic itinerary. These industrial structures, the ‘cathedrals’ of modernity, built by anonymous hands, split up by typology and portrayed in black and white, are buildings earmarked for demolition after having fulfilled their purpose. With their documentation, the Bechers tried to catalogue and preserve the image – and the memory – of these elements of industrial archaeology, partly along the same lines as the research into ‘conceptual’ art. Furthermore, the Bechers’ gasometers – with their circular structures – are also reminiscent of the digesters and tanks of Castelbosco in which shit is transformed into biogas. The exhibition cycle also closes – or rather reopens – another historical work by Gianfranco Baruchello, one of the artists closest to the outlook of Gianantonio Locatelli. Previously the founder of ‘Agricola Cornelia S.p.A.’, (1973-1981), a registered company, situated in via di Santa Cornelia, in the countryside near Rome, with the aim of ‘cultivating the land’, in 1975 Baruchello produced the video work Il grano, which was recently included in the museum itinerary: for a whole month, the artist filmed the various stages of the growth, transformation and ripening of the wheat, observing the weather conditions and their influence on the harvest. The film focuses on the vital cycles of nature, their succession and duration.
It would be superfluous to underline the pertinence of this work, both in terms of the subject and the approach – given the large-scale agricultural production of Castelbosco – as well as the reflection it offers on one of the founding activities of the history and development of the human race: agriculture.
Gaspare Luigi Marcone (October 2017)