Metamorphosis – be it of ideas, material or matter – is a key concept in the philosophy of the Castelbosco Shit Museum.
This ‘cabinet of curiosities’ would not be complete without a few exemplars of ‘coprolites’: fossil excrement, dating to millions of years ago. Coprolites (from the Greek kópros = dung, líthos = stone) are findings on which there is still a great amount of debate among scholars, also because it is often difficult to establish which animal they come from; nevertheless, they still provide useful information on the diet of living beings. In brief, they are fossil excrements of various form, made up of a mix of carbonates and phosphates. In fact, “a fossil rarely consists of the same substance that made up the parts corresponding to the living organism, but more often than not, chemical exchanges intervene. Three compounds dominate the nature of fossils: silica, calcium carbonate (especially calcite) and calcium phosphate; in order of frequency, we then find carbon, pyrite and numerous other substances.”[1]

However, the bonds – not only ‘conceptual’ ones – of the coprolites in the Shit Museum go further than mere curiosity. In fact, it may be remembered that even substances like petroleum and coal are of organic origin and are known as ‘chemical fossils’, which man has exploited for centuries, but which as we know, have a rather alarming impact on the environment. Instead, the Castelbosco farm produces biogas generated by the processing of cow dung.
This biogas, rich in methane, is obtained through its anaerobic digestion – thanks to the work of anaerobic bacteria, methanogenic bacteria or methane bacteria – of the organic substances to be found in the residues of agro-industrial processes (manure and vegetable matter). Methane produced in this manner is called ‘biogas’ or ‘organic methane’ – to distinguish it from natural or technical methane – and is more eco-sustainable. Furthermore,
this energy source heats all the rooms of the late medieval castle thanks to a ‘futuristic’ system which runs like a metallic intestine along the inner perimeter of the building. In the room where the heating system is visible, a projector is to be found, screening films dealing with ‘shit’ as their main subject, as well as a cycle of photographs (Gazometres, 1966-76) by Bernd & Hilla Becher, portraying British and German gasometers of the modern age,
thus reinforcing a further link between art, science, industry and the activities performed on Gianantonio Locatelli’s farm.

The ‘digesters’ of Castelbosco that carry out the dung transformation procedure – along with other buildings around the farm such as the stables, electrical substations and houses – have also been ‘transformed’ by the interventions of the British artist David Tremlett. What’s more, with this in mind, we may also better enjoy the installation that illuminates part of the Shit Museum – in the central room of the castle – created using ‘bioluminescent bacteria’ by the light designer Alberto Pasetti.

Continuous leaps between the past and the future, science and art, archaeology and religion lead to another fascinating ‘object’
on show in the castle entrance hallway: an anatomical votive from the Etruscan-Lazio area in terracotta (3rd-2nd centuries BC; h 35cm) portraying the human internal bodily organs (oesophagus, lungs, heart, stomach, liver, intestine, kidneys, bladder): an emblematic testimony of that extraordinary ‘machine’ which is the human body.

Gaspare Luigi Marcone (April 2015)


[1] Cf. entry for Fossile in the Treccani Encyclopaedia: