A Tokyo-based artist has created hermit crab shells adorned with miniature cityscapes. Aki Inomata used a CT scanner to map the interior of sea shells before manufacturing the designs using 3D-modeling software. Among the shapes are New York City’s skyline, a Thai pagoda and a series of Dutch windmills.
Metro World News sat down with the 29-year-old artist about her inspiration, and why even crabs seemed to take well to her art.
What inspired you to do this project?
In 2009, I heard about a dispute between France and Japan after an old embassy building in Tokyo was demolished. The two nations debated whose land was it, French or Japanese? Then they agreed to swap control of the land every 50 years.
That made me think about changing identity, and how hermit crabs change their shells as they grow. I wanted to connect the crabs’ transformation to our own adaptability, whether it’s acquiring a new nationality, emigrating or relocating.
And why cityscapes for crab shells?
In Japanese, hermit crabs are called yadokari, which literally means "somebody living in a temporary dwelling." So, this Japanese phrase and the notion of a manmade buidling are closely linked.
I chose cityscapes specifically because of their distinctive shapes. For my exhibition entitled “Why Not Hand Over a ‘Shelter’ to Hermit Crabs?” there were some miniature cities I couldn’t show because the crabs didn’t like them!
So, how did you make those shells fit for a crab?
I used a CT scanner – normally used to produce cross-sectional pictures of the human body – to make a 3D rendering of a sea shell. With this data, I used a 3D printer to make the resin-based translucent shells.
Using their claws, the crabs carefully checked out the shells, before moving inside quickly.
Do you think the crabs liked their new homes?
They said they were beautiful [laughs]. Seriously, I can’t say if the crabs liked the shells or not, but they began moving faster with them, as the new shells were half the weight of natural ones.