#Aki Inomata

Global Architecture Rises from Resin Hermit Crab Shells in Aki Inomata’s Consideration of Home and Borders

March 31, 2023

Grace Ebert

All images © Aki Inomata, shared with permission

When hermit crabs outgrow their shells, they participate in an encouraging act of resource sharing. The crustaceans line up by size and swap homes, and hopefully, each creature finds an appropriately sized shelter. Options tend to be limited to the shells washed up on shore, unless Tokyo-based artist Aki Inomata is involved.

Since 2009, Inomata has been designing tiny homes for hermit crabs topped with towering skyscrapers, windmills, and churches. Part of an ongoing series titled Why Not Hand Over a ‘Shelter’ to Hermit Crabs?, the 3D-printed resin works resemble urban landscapes and draw similarities between human and animal environments. Inomata’s designs, although not released into the wild, evoke the species’ organic exchanges as a way to consider the evolving nature of home.


The artist shares in a statement that the project was born out of her participation in the 2009 No Man’s Land exhibition at the French Embassy in Japan, the final show in the space before the building was demolished. She elaborates:

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…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.

Now more than a decade since Inomata began the series, the project takes on additional significance given the surge in migration and refugee crises around the world. The array of global architecture allows individuals to seamlessly swap Western streets for Eastern palaces or capacious spaces for dense cities, emphasizing the potential for more communal, cooperative living.

Head to Vimeo to watch the crustaceans scuttle along wearing Inomata’s works, and follow additions to the project on Instagram.


#Aki Inomata


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