Natalie Jeremijenko, Mussel Choir

Can mussels pipe up about dirty water? Natalie Jeremijenko's Mussel Choir explores how mussels can help us adapt our waterfront and improve water quality

Natalie Jeremijenko is an artist whose work has appeared at MoMA, two Whitney Biennials and the Guggenheim, she is primarily interested in creating spectacles through art that exists outside of gallery walls. Backed by bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and physics, and a Ph.D. in computer science and electrical engineering, Jeremijenko seeks to address challenging environmental issues with work that is both practical and metaphorical, in an effort to affect what she terms an ‘ecomindshift’. Her Environmental Health Clinic + Lab conspires to help us all redesign our relationship to natural systems.

Often part fanciful provocation, part prototype for functioning system, Jeremijenko’s art always seeks to address what she sees as a general ‘crisis of agency’, inviting the public to imaginatively participate in re-thinking complicated problems. With Mussel Choir, thirty enormous concrete blocks serve as mussel condominiums that highlight “what’s under this pretty reflective surface that enhances real estate value but is actually a diverse, teeming habitat.” One mussel can filter as much as 69 litres of water/ hour.

By instrumenting mussels with hall effect sensors, factors like depth of submersion and the mussels’ openings and closings (which correspond to water quality) will be represented, via software, by acoustic phenomena like pitch and tempo. This glee club of bivalves “sing” about the quality of the water as they filter it. Through Mussel Choir, Jeremijenko explores mussels adaptability, as well as our need to adapt urban waterfronts with better systems design that work with the environment to improve water quality.

Photo Credit: Natalie Jeremijenko; Carbon Arts; The Architectural League NY