Mussel Manifesto

Presented by Michela Magas at Free to Create,
EU Conference on Artistic Freedom and Cultural and Creative Industries
Presented at MTF Labs 2022 in Aveiro, Portugal

The theme of MTF Labs 2022 was Ecosystem Living. For my contribution, I started with a clump of mussels which I found on the beach near the conference. I studied the biology and mechanics of mussel ecosystems and made a detailed map, unpacking the clump of mussels which I had found. Finally, I wrote following manifesto:


1. Live together with multiple generations and multiple species

Most mussels reproduce on a yearly basis. New mussels attach themselves onto older mussels to form large multi-generational clumps. Other small animals also choose to take shelter or living in the gaps within these clumps.

2. No need to move, just stay put

Mussels are largely sessile creatures. After attaching themselves, they may stay in one place for their whole life. As a result, other animals start to build structures on top of the mussels and new ecosystems emerge.

3. Get tangled up

Mussels grow a hair-like structure called byssus, which they use to attach and entangle themselves to their neighbours.

4. Create something bigger than yourself

A group of mussels, held together by bysuss can become its own entity. A large floating bio-mass which often attracts fish and other life.

5. Ecosystem living doesnt have to be pretty

A grey mess of shells and tangled hairs.

6. Encorporate whatever floats past

Dead shells often float into the byssus web. They act as an extra structural component to build upon.

7. Interspecies interactions are not always mutual

Barnacles and white worms grow on mussel shells because they provide a solid surface to live on. They don't benefit the mussel in any way.

8. Create an environment where you are comfortable and safe

Living in large groups keeps the mussels hydrated and provides protection from strong currents.

9. Incorporate technologies

Byssus has been studied extensively as a biodegradable, yet exceedingly strong adhesive. Without this technology, mussels could not form groups.