Most of the objects and the projects featured in The Shit Museum are in keeping with the idea of the Wunderkammer (‘chamber or cabinet of wonders’) dating back to the 16th century – and at the basis of the modern concept of the museum – of a place in which to bring together exemplars of natural history, instruments of various disciplines, artefacts and works of art from all ages and various curiosities (naturalia and artificialia).

This interest in the ‘marvellous’ or the ‘monstrous’ is well expressed in the great barrel-vaulted room running between the entrance and the exit to the castle. The walls and ceiling are completely covered in Merdame®, a fertiliser produced in Castelbosco of renewable origins, created in keeping with the principles of the circular economy, ideal for the wellbeing of plants, and a key product in the fight against climate change. It’s one of the first ‘experiments’ – with an almost alchemical feel to it – of the transformation of manure into a product suited to agriculture, not to mention ideal on an architectural level in ‘green building’ practices. A union of aesthetic and ethical qualities. Almost by contrast, the central installation in the room – created by recycling an ancient wooden tank found in the castle – consists of a number of exemplars of carnivorous plants from various corners of the Earth. In fact, due to the lack of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other nutritional substances in their lands of origin, carnivorous plants have developed a digestive system that allows them to digest and absorb proteins from the animals or insects they capture. Herein also lies a fascination with ‘monstrous beauty’, given that these amazing plants dazzle their prey in order to then be able to feed off them. This display also constitutes a ‘reminder’ or reflection on the current condition of the ‘soil’ or rather of the ability to cultivate, manage and respect the ground, which represents a priceless global asset both from an environmental and an agricultural point of view.

In the same room, we may also admire the work Alfabeto, 1973, by Claudio Parmiggiani made up of 22 photographs (taken by Luigi Ghirri in collaboration with Tiziano Ortolani) which conjure up the idea of a ‘museum within the museum’, that synthesis of nature, culture, science, magic, alchemy transformation that underlines the very project of The Shit Museum. As Daniela Palazzoli write, citing the words of the artist, “21 boards plus 1, ‘the fool’, like in tarot cards, a sort of grotesque cosmology of mnemonic references, a natural history which instead has become unnatural and most of all turned on its head. 21 images taken from the collection of natural history of Lazzaro Spallanzani […] finally, a white board with evanescent lettering – ‘alfabeto’ – offers the definition of the work. Alphabet meant as the result of the words – of collective intentions, of political ideologies – a museum moved or transferred into another museum. What’s more the boards correspond to the symbolism of the tarot cards.”[1] Hence in Castelbosco, there is – not only indirectly – also a homage to Lazzarro Spallanzani, a illustriuos scholar and naturalist of the 18th century, founder of experimental biology at the height of the ‘age of enlightenment’, whose collection of ‘wonders’ is to be found in the Palazzo dei Musei, the historical home of the Civic Museums of Reggio Emilia.

Gaspare Luigi Marcone (October 2017)


[1] Cf. Claudio Parmiggiani, Alfabeto, text by N. Balestrini, preface by D. Palazzoli, L’Uomo e l’Arte, Milan, 1974.