Design

Japanese artist Aki Inomata 3D prints whimsical homes for hermit crabs

April 06, 2017

Japanese artist Aki Inomata 3D prints whimsical homes for hermit crabs, enacting an artistic commentary on the concept of peaceful exchange of land.

Hermit crabs change their shells as they grow. Sometimes they are kicked out of their shelters by stronger hermit crabs and forced to exchange shells. Japanese artist Aki Inomata gave hermit crabs shells that she had makes for them, and if the crabs liked them, they moved into her “shelters”. Inomata says that "the shelters that I made for them represented cities from around the world. My idea for this piece came about when I participated in the “No Man’s Land” exhibition that was held at the French Embassy in Japan in 2009. This work was inspired by the fact that the land of the former French Embassy in Japan had been French until October 2009, and then became Japanese for the following fifty years, after which it will be returned to France. I was surprised to hear this story, and associated this image with the way that hermit crabs exchange shelters. A piece of land is peacefully exchanged between two countries. While it is the same piece of land, our definition of it changes. In the same way, the appearance of hermit crabs changes completely as they exchange shelters. The hermit crabs in my piece, who exchange shelters representing cities of the world, seem to be crossing over national borders. It also brings to mind migrants and refugees changing their nationalities and the places where they live. The first time that I made this piece, I only gave the hermit crabs spherical shapes, but they ignored my “shelters”. Using CT scans, I studied the natural shapes of hermit crab shells, and by printing out the 3DCG data using 3D printers, I was able to create “shelters” that the hermit crabs would move into.