Weight of the World: Hermit Crab Shell Art!

In terms of the evolutionary ladder, human beings fall rather far from hermit crabs, and it is quite difficult to draw many similarities between the two species. Japanese artist Aki Inomata doesn't have trouble seeing the connection, and she instills her insightful opinion into her unique living sculptures. Although she has created a large body of work, she has received international acclaim and attention for a specific series that blends art and life in a way that most artists would never even consider. Her work consists of miniature cityscapes carved from plastic that have been built specifically to fit a certain hermit crab. The snap-clawed resident can then live in the artificial shell quite comfortably, literally carrying the weight of a small city on its crustacean shoulders.



The concept that we have of ourselves is strongly based in where we come from, and where we currently are. Our surroundings provide the experiences that make up our days, and we identify with specific places that we come to think of as "home", not to mention other locations we reserve for work or social activities.  The natural world is much the same, but some species are literally species without a country, for lack of a better phrase, and they adapt and change throughout their lives. On the small scale of a crustacean's environmental perspective, a hermit crab is basically a global wanderer, abandoning its mobile home (shell) multiple times throughout its life. They completely reinvent their life and appearance numerous times, as well as the environment that they exist in, and the challenges that they face. 

Inomata's art represents that common trait that human beings share with the lowly hermit crab. We similarly reinvent ourselves over the course of our life through the changing of professions, countries, "homes", relationships, and belief systems. We seek out new challenges and leave ourselves vulnerable during the transitions, before beginning to adapt and absorb the weight of our new lives. 



Honfleur (Empty Shell)Honfleur (Empty Shell)


New York CityNew York City


NYC (Empty Shell)NYC (Empty Shell)


The connections don't stop there when it comes to hermit crabs and humans. Inomata's idea was originally inspired by the peaceful transition between France and Japan in regards to the land of the French Embassy in that Asian nation. In October of 2009, the land was given back to Japan for fifty years, when it will be returned to French control. This is one of the rare examples of positive international relations and peaceful transitions of control, a flaw in human nature that has led to so much war and devastation throughout history. Aki Inomata, a Japanese artist, observed this transition between two friendly nations and was inspired. 

Hermit crabs live in a fluctuating world of peaceful transitions, and the millions of members of that species regularly trade up for new living spaces and shells. While humans have resorted to violence and war to achieve similar goals of expansion, this simple creature has somehow mastered the art of adaptation and change. Obviously, I don't mean to sound reductive as I speak about international relations, but a lot could be learned from the humble hermit crab, and Aki Inomata certainly understands that valuable lesson.


Zaanse SchansZaanse Schans


Zaanse Schans (Empty Shell)Zaanse Schans (Empty Shell)


Ksar of Ait-Ben-HaddouKsar of Ait-Ben-Haddou


In a very short time, Ai inomata's unique approach to modern art has garnered her a great deal of attention. Her exhibitions and shows in Japan have continued to increase dramatically, and the international art world has also taken notice, so she has brought her work everywhere from Hong Kong to the hot streets of Miami. Her analysis of identity and relationship to surroundings is something that appeals to everyone's consciousness, and her unique way of expressing those ideas is eye-catching and thought-provoking.

Rather than suggesting the natural world with color or form, she includes a living, breathing embodiment of nature, and then urges viewers to consider what the combination of humans and nature should mean. Her intent is not only to promote peace and progress between humans, but also of the peaceful coexistence between mankind and the natural world. 






If you enjoy art that contains more than meets the eye, than explore more of Aki Inomata's artwork at her website, and if you happen to be in Tokyo, or one of the other global cities where her art is regularly displayed, don't miss your chance to see it! 

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All images are subject to copyright by the artist.