Taking a cue from the hermit crabs’ nature of changing their shells as they grow, Japanese contemporary artist Aki Inomata created semi-transparent 3D shelters for them in the form of architectural cityscapes such as New York skylines, Thai temples, or Dutch windmills. The project, titled Why Not Hand Over a Shelter to Hermit Crabs?, required Inomata to study the natural shapes of their shells via CT scans in order to build and print out shelters that the hermit crabs would be comfortable enough to move into and adopt as their own.
Inspired by her participation in the 2009 exhibit No Man’s Land which tackled the peaceful turnover of French-owned land to the Japanese and back again, Inomata’s 3D shells are metaphors for migration and relocation. “The hermit crabs in my piece, who exchange shelters representing cities of the world, seem to be crossing over national borders,” she says. “It also brings to mind migrants and refugees changing their nationalities and the places where they live.”