Mussel Choir

First commissioned in 2012, Natalie Jeremijenko’s Mussel Choir is a monitoring system turned art piece that utilizes live mussels as biosensors to project changes in water quality. Each mussel within one of Jeremijenko’s thirty bivalve condominiums (aka concrete slabs that the mollusk communities inhabit) is outfitted with a Hall effect sensor, which uses artificial intelligence to assign a musical note to individual movement as the mussels filter out pollutants from their surrounding environment. The final output is a song, composed by the choir of mussels themselves; the “choir” has performed in Venice, Melbourne, and New York City. By enhancing the natural intelligence of the mussels, Jeremijenko’s work allows viewers to rethink the ways in which they connect and sense their own surroundings, helping highlight the greater intelligence humankind and non-human nature possesses in responding to environmental harms. ‘Mussel Choir’ also serves as an example of innovative coastal urban architecture, integrating digital technologies with the natural ecosystem and landscape. While ‘Mussel Choir’ does allow for deeper reflection on the part of the individual viewer, questions surrounding the ethical implications of utilizing sentient beings in anthropogenic projects remain. Despite such moral quandaries, the degree of sentience of the mussels as a species is still up for debate, so ‘Mussel Choir’ does not seem to merit such critique. 

Heartney, E. (2014). Art for the Anthropocene Era


Aesthetic/Leisure, Biodiversity, Ecological Monitoring, Monitoring, Pollution, Psychology