Friday, July 26, 2013

Aki Inomata

I first came across Japanese artist Aki Inomata's work at The Armory Show a few years ago, and while Why Not Hand Over a 'Shelter' to Hermit Crabs? (2009; 2010)was far and away my favorite work at the show, I pretty much forgot about her until just the other day, when I received a friendly reminder from designboom.

Inomata creates her clear plastic homes for hermit crabs based on the architecture of major cities. Because hermit crabs are so picky about their homes, to begin the process, she scans abandoned hermit crab shells, using these to base her designs. Next, she uses 3-D software to slightly enlarge the shells and design her elaborate cityscapes, using a rapid prototyping system to produce the finished shells. Finally, these are introduced to the hermit crabs, who get to chose the city in which to make their new home. As Inomata explains:
In this piece I gave hermit crabs shelters that I had made for them, and if they liked my shelters, I got them to use them as their shell.

I overheard that the land of the former French Embassy in Japan had been French until October 2009; that it was to become Japanese for the following fifty years, and then be returned to France. This concept made me think of hermit crabs, which change their shells. The same piece of land is peacefully transferred from one country to the other. These kinds of things take place without our being aware of it. On the other hand, similar events are not unrelated to us as individuals. For example acquiring nationality, moving, and migration.

The hermit crabs wearing the shelters I built for them, which imitate the architecture of various countries, appeared to be crossing various national borders. Though the body of the hermit crab is the same, according to the shell it is wearing, its appearance changes completely. It’s as if they were asking, “Who are you?”
Great concept, right? You can see more of Inomata's fascinating work on her website.

(Photographs © Aki Inomata)

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