For ages excreta has been equated to money and gold. King Midas was cursed by turning everything he touched (and by extension shit) into gold. Ancient alchemists persisted by trying to turn base elements into gold. Their poor track record didn’t deter Paul Moran from Northern Ireland who centuries later was arrested for nearly burning down his apartment “attempting to make gold from human feces”.

Source: Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index ©2014. University of Iowa Libraries

The figure of the Dukatenkacker, dating to the 15th century, who expels gold coins from his anus is the human counterpart of the The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs, a fable written 600 years B.C.

Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 sculpture Fountain.
Alfred Stieglitz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“Art is shit” was a slogan of the Dadaist movement. The metaphor was exemplified by Fountain, a ready-made art piece of an upside down urinal by Marcel Duchamp. His work made us look at art in a new way and consider our excrements as worthy.

Merda d”artista by Piero Manzoni.
Jens Cederskjold, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1960s Piero Manzoni packaged his own shit in small tin cans with the title “Merda d’artista”, and sold them for their weight in gold. Gaspare Luigi Marconi, editor of Manzoni’s writings, elucidates the significance of “Merda d’artista” as a proposal for an open relationship with our biological reality.

Dr. Jaeweon Cho. Thurn Film / Justin Lovett

The idea didn’t leave the human imagination as we can attest by the work of our protagonist Dr. Jaeweon Cho who created the feces Standard Money (fSM), a currency based on our fecal output.

Bust of Vespasianus. shakko, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the end we can all agree with Roman emperor Vespasianus, who at the beginning of the last millennium, imposed a tax on the urine collected from public urinals, which was sold as an ingredient for tanning and as a source of ammonia to clean and whiten woolen togas. When his son Titus complained about the disgusting nature of the tax, his father held up a gold coin and asked whether he felt offended by its smell. When Titus said “No”, Vespasianus replied “pecunia non olet” (money does not stink), meaning that the value of money is not spoiled by its source. (From Wikipedia:

Dr. Sigmund Freud. Max Halberstadt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On a psychological level shit has also been equated to a precious gift (money, gold), especially those first poops we all took as babies. Dr. Sigmund Freud wrote about how we, as babies, relate to our excrements. We are not born rejecting our own shit, nor ashamed or disgusted by it. That comes later with toilet training. Instead, as infants, we see our poop as a gift we produce. Shitting allows babies to decide whether to obediently let go of their feces, and give them as presents to their loved one, the mother, or retain them to assert their own will through defiance, or to derive satisfaction. Eventually children, as adults, transfer their interest from shit to money as the most valuable gift in life. I am, of course, simplifying Freud’s more complex postulates, but that’s the gist of it.