The hermit crab is neither a hermit or a crab, yet we’ve accepted this misnomer to represent a crustacean that doesn’t have a shell of its own, but “borrows” shells. As hermit grabs grow they repeatedly swap the dwellings they’ve outgrown for bigger homes, tossing aside old ones for others to use. That’s why the Japanese name yadokari (宿借) is so much more appropriate. It literally means home borrower.
But such behavior must surely be limited to animals. Or so thought Japanese artist Aki Inomata, who was surprised and inspired to learn that people, and countries, can behave in similar manners. Under a unique agreement between Japan and France, the land for the French Embassy in Tokyo changes hands between the two countries every several decades. “The same piece of land is peacefully transferred from one country to the other,” observed Inomata. And further exploring the idea of nationality, cross-border mobility and migration, the 31-year old artist, who often incorporates animals into her work, decided to craft 3D-printed hermit crab shells each architecturally modelled after different cities.
Inomata then placed the empty shells into a cage and allowed the hermit crabs to pick and choose which one they wanted. “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?’ “
“I used CT scanning to capture highly-detailed, three-dimensional rendering of an unoccupied seashell, which one of my hermit crabs had abandoned. Based on the tomography of the interior of the shell, I prototyped with rapid prototyping and produced several types of habitable shelters.”