Aki Inomata’s ‘Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs?’

The Museum of Applied Arts and Science’s current exhibition ‘Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital’ presents an engaging dialogue about the use of digital manufacture in art and a range of other disciplines. The wide range of artists’ artworks aim to take a look at digital technologies role in design and production of objects (MAAS 2017).  The exhibition covers the topics of modelling nature, new geometrics, pattern as structure, rebooting revivals, remixing the figure and processuality (MAAS 2017). One artist from this exhibition is Aki Inomata with her 3D printed installation –White Chapel- Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs? The overall series created by Inomata predominantly features 3D printed hermit crab shells that have been modelled to represent buildings from different cities around the world, placed in glass cabinets in front of a projection showing crabs inhabiting the shells. The work presented at the Museum of Applied Arts and Science focusses on one part of the series made by Inomata.


Inomata’s piece presented at the Out of Hand exhibition is the third work in the series Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs? and features a white chapel as it’s main subject. The installation features three modified shells that are designed to look like wedding chapels enclosed in glass cases resting atop podiums. The modified shells are 3D printed from CT scans and hold an immense amount of detail.  The artist studied seashells, the natural habitat of hermit crabs, by scanning the physical objects to obtain the exact shape of the inside of the shells.  The scanned images were then manipulated digitally to construct the final shape of the reconstructed shell to be printed digitally as a miniature plastic sculpture. Inomata uses plastic to form the shells, what could this symbolise?  Perhaps Inomata used plastic because it was the only practical choice of material at the time, being easier to 3D print than other materials such as glass.


Digital fabrication is known as methods of computer-assisted production (Gumbs 2011, p. 7). Types of digital sculpture include computer aided design, computer-assisted manufacturing, CNC milling and/or Rapid Prototyping (Gumbs 2011, p. 8). 3D printing is a solid free-form fabrication. In 2005 3D modelling saw many advances. Digitally rendered concepts could now leave the computer and be printed more easily into a physical form (Gumbs 2011, p. 7). Using CT scans Inomata 3D printed her hermit crab shells. 3D printing involves an object being built layer by layer from the bottom to top (Gumbs 2011, p. 9).  Inomata would of chosen 3D printing because it can capture small-scale detail extremely well. 3D printing has become a solution for forms that could not mold because of a die-lock (Gumbs 2011, p. 9).


Inomata specifically chose hermit crabs as they change and adapt constantly ‘rehoming’ themselves to new shells (Inomata 2017).  A lot of the time hermit crabs are forcefully removed from their shells they occupy by stronger hermit crabs (Inomata 2017).  From this Inomata draws the comparison between Japanese people and the postcolonial identities living inside of them (Inomata 2017).  Post colonialism refers to the effects of colonisation in terms of the culture of the colonisers and colonised (Buchanan 2010, p. 372).


Aki Inomata was first inspired to create this work that explores issues of migration and nationality when she exhibited a work in the “No Man’s Land” exhibition held at the French Embassy in Japan (Inomata 2017).   The exhibition focused on how the French Embassy had to give the land the embassy was built on back to Japan.   At this event Inomata reflected on how culture can be transient and does not always fix itself to one geographical location.


Inomata created these shells to see if the hermit crabs would take to them and subsequently make the modified shells their new home.  Aki Inomata in this series has also developed a visual representation of postcolonial identities living in Japanese people using 3D printed hermit shells that have been modified to look like different cities around the world (Inomata 2017). Inomata used hermit crabs as an example of colonialism due to the fact, that they can be kicked out of their shells by stronger crabs, therefore forced to change shells (Inomata 2017).   The Japanese were forced into western culture in a violent way due to World War II.  The Japanese had to rebuild themselves, adopting an image resembling the Americans who occupied Japan immediately after the war.  They lost their homes to a stronger occupying force and learnt to adapt to new forms of shelter.  The western style of architecture depicted in the modified shells created by Inomata, reflect Japanese postcolonial identities (Inomata 2017).


Japan became an international country after the second world war so that might be why Inomata chose to do a range of buildings from around the world and wedding chapels for her hermit crabs to inhabit. The use of an animal as small as a hermit crab and their shells is interesting when being used as a representation for a topic that is so far reaching.   Above and directly behind the three podiums displaying the shells is a video projection playing a short reel of the hermit crabs moving into their new ‘homes.’  The wedding chapel represents chapels in Japan that have no ties to religious space but are solely for the celebration of weddings (Inomata 2017).  Inomata comments on the interesting reality of westernised Japanese weddings.  She shows how the Japanese have appropriated western tradition while not understanding the traditional religious significance of churches.   Just like her hermit crabs have adopted a plastic shell and call it home.


Christian style weddings are the norm for around sixty percent of Japanese people when only around one percent of the Japanese population identifies as being Christian (Inomata 2017).  Inomata comments that a person’s national identity is easily interchangeable just as a hermit crab’s shell is. Hermit crabs are identified by their shells and Inomata says she is Japanese but could easily change her nationality to French for example (Reuters 2015).  These chapels are built with a mixture of styles from Gothic to Romanesque, these forms are digitally reworked with a contemporary twist into the 3D printed hermit crab shells symbolising the post colonial identities living within Japanese people to this current day (Inomata 2017).   As Nakeisha Gumbs from the Museum of Arts and Design says “digital fabrication has lead to disciplines being merged, such as architecture and fine art to test the bounds of imagination and use of digital technologies in art making” (Gumbs 2011, p. 7).  In a sense Inomata discusses Japanese people and their inclination to borrow from western culture but not completely change their traditional identity during the process.


When first peering into the glass case it is as if you are peering into a world that seems utopian on the surface, as if the shells are some sort of clear and pristine disguise for a better world.  After reading Inomata’s artist statement and her intention, the viewer learns that the shells are modified to look beautiful but are in fact hiding a dark past.  It is not really clear upon first impression what the work is depicting.  Inomata has made an assumption about the knowledge and intuition of her audience.   She more so relies on her video projection and artist statement to help the viewer to understand how she came to fruition with her idea and artistic process.  Viewing the video projection alongside the modified shells almost takes away from the intricacy of the digitally fabricated shells.   Although Inomata’s work was not as interactive as her neighbouring artworks, it had a more lasting impression than the pieces which rely solely on interaction.   Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs? has a more lasting impression on the viewer as the meaning is not worn out immediately after walking away from the artwork.  It becomes more than the immediate ‘oh that’s cool’ impression.  It lives on after walking away, provoking the viewer to think about post colonialism in the digital age.


Inomata formulates the piece as if it is a technical project rather than an art piece. This is an interesting way at approaching the artistic process.  By doing this, she somewhat removes the mystery from of the work by presenting it as if it is solely a scientific experiment. In using live crabs as her subjects she experiments with their behaviours to modify their habitats.  Through her artistic journey, Inomata undertook research on the hermit crabs and what kind of shelters they would find easy to adopt and adapt to, as a scientist would.  The process of 3D modelling the architecturally designed shells would be extremely intricate and mathematical.  It does not really appear as a typical artistic process until you view the final product.  The work on many levels is still very artistic but the artist does not express herself as you would if you were doing it directly through the medium, such as a painter would when they use oils on canvas.  It becomes more about designing and building, relying on digital technology to construct the piece rather than relying on the expertise of one’s hand.  It also becomes more about creating an artistic concept and then materialising this with digital technology.  Although it is not about replacing the handmade with machines but aiding it into new and innovative art pieces that could never come to conception without the digital.  Computer controlled tools are becoming an art in themselves to be able to describe physical objects with increasing detail that the naked eye could not copy (Gumbs 2011, p. 40).  As Nakeisha Gumbs outlines, digital fabrication is about the discovery [of digital mediums] by artists and designers and how these creatives use these mediums to “construct and assemble complex forms and expressions that re-define our notions of creative production and the creative process” (2011, p. 7).


In -White Chapel- Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs? Inomata undergoes a process of exploring, experimenting, producing, and final presentation of the artwork, and shows this journey to her audience as a piece of her overall construction.   She uses a rare mixed medium that includes live hermit crabs, and digitally created plastic shells resembling human architecture, to entertain her intellectual concepts of post colonialism and cultural appropriation.  The fact Inomata used a video display to the hermit crabs moving into their newly created shell habitats, helps the viewer understand the depth of the artist’s journey and the intent of her work.  However, had she displayed the shells without the video, one wonders whether the viewer would receive a higher appreciation of the shells as a work of art within themselves. This is an inventive example of materialised digital art.

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 8.46.14 PM




Buchanan, I 2010, Oxford Dictionary of Critical Theory, Oxford University Press, New York.


Gumbs, N 2011, Teacher resource Kit. Out of Hand Exhibition: Materializing the Postdigital, Museum of Arts and Design, viewed 26 April 2017, <http://madmuseum.org/sites/default/files/static/ed/Out%20of%20Hand_TRP_Final_0_0.pdf>


Inomata, A 2013, Process of ‘Why Not Hand Over a Shelter to Hermit Crabs? Aki Inomata, online video, 27 September, YouTube, viewed 22 April 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU5wZ3PyJOw>


Inomata, A 2017, Why Not Hand Over a Shelter to Hermit Crabs?, Aki Inomata, viewed 22 April 2017, <http://www.aki-inomata.com/works/hermit_WhiteChapel/>


Museum of Applied Arts and Science 2017, Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital, Museum of Applied Arts and Science, viewed 22 April 2017, <https://maas.museum/event/out-of-hand-materialising-the-digital/>


Museum of Arts and Design 2015, Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital, Museum of Arts and Design, viewed 26 April 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIP2YcqM7VGobey-PINdx7l6WDbRzNHU->
Reuters 2015, Japenese Artist Makes 3D Homes for Hermit Crabs, Reuters, viewed 26 April 2017, <http://www.reuters.com/video/2015/12/10/japanese-artist-makes-3d-homes-for-hermi?videoId=366626588>


Week 6: Project Pitch

The two images above are my initial brainstorming for project ideas using two professions in my field. And the two images below are my initial brainstorming with ideas and thoughts added by my classmates.

I have narrowed down my practice to two professions:

  1. Pre-production set design
  2. Pre-production scriptwriting

Options brainstormed in class (expanded from the mind maps above):

  1. Set design: 

a) An installation that incorporates physical design and video. In this idea I would create a blank slate (e.g. a dark empty room) and transform it into a set. I would film this transformation, possibly speed it up, or maybe seeing it in real time would be more interesting? The element of a time constraint could also relate back to my research of the show Saturday Night Live. Using visuals, sounds and lighting I could make my own film set.

b) A more physical and performance based installation idea is picking certain props and placing them in an environment where people can create their own sets with the objects provided.

c) Creating a set in Cinema 4D and 3D printing it.

    2. Scriptwriting: 

a) Modifying and comparing scripts that are similar in some way, revealing appropriation in cinema. One possible way of presenting this printing all of these “snippets” of similar scripts, cutting them into pieces and placing them overlapping each other to spell out “nothing is original.”

b) Sophie Calle is a photographer that uses her photos to create narratives. I could use still photos to create my own narrative, or in this case a “visual script.”

Final Pitch:

The paragraph highlighted orange in the set design subheading is my chosen pitch.

Mashing my ideas together:

I’m interested in many of the ideas I have outlined. This is my favourite pitch but It is possible I could incorporate all or some aspects of my other ideas in some way. For example having the “nothing is original” script snippets in the background of the set. And/Or in front of the video projection of the set being built, could be objects that are being used in the video, inviting the viewer to become part of the set being created behind them or possibly make their own iteration.

All in all, I want to repurpose ideas of pre-production in cinema and television in a contemporary digital installation art setting.


Week 5: From Research to Making

Themes and ideas to possibly explore in my major:

  • A set design installation. Re-stage small parts of my favourites film scenes and trying to recreate the same lighting, mood etc. Or even possibly subverting the original film set into something completely different.
  • Exploring the concept of live theatre on television. With this I could possibly create a ‘cold open’ of my own (reference to cold open video of SNL in blog post 2).
  • Pre-production: script writing. Maybe present a range of different scripts over time and how they all feed into each other, exploring the theme of appropriation and how many say “nothing is original.”
  • How cinema has developed over time. A piece that shows the history of cinema.
  • Iterations of screen

Out of Hand Exhibition

 Aki Inomata’s Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs?

Aki Inomata developed a visual representation of postcolonial identities living in Japanese people using 3D printed hermit shells that have been modified to look like different cities around the world (Inomata 2017). Using these modified shells, Inomata gave them to hermit crabs to see if they would like them and then subsequently move into the new shelter. The work is shown as an installation with three of the modified shells shown in glass cases in front of projection of the hermit crabs moving into their new shells. Inomata used hermit crabs as an example of colonialism due to the fact that they can be kicked out of their shells by stronger crabs, therefore forced to change shells (Inomata 2017). The Japanese had to rebuild themselves after WWII, adopting an image resembling the Americans who occupied Japan immediately after the war.

At first glance I did not register the shells, looking instead straight at the video projection over the podiums that hold the three modified shells. Looking into the glass cases that hold the 3D printed hermit crab shells, you feel like you are peering into a different world that looks almost utopian but when you find out the real meaning of the shells it reveals that it is all a disguise.

Even something as simple as the layout of Inomata’s work has sparked ideas for me. For example, featuring digitally materialised objects alongside a projection. The theme of displacement could be interesting to explore in my final work. Possibly creating a narrative or commentary on postcolonial identities through film and television representation.


Inomata, A 2017, Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs?, Aki Inomata, viewed 27 March 2017, <http://www.aki-inomata.com/works/hermit/>

Week 4: Creating Opportunity

Potential Mentors/Inspirations:

  1. Jessie (cousin), Editor: She has led me to get an opportunity to work on an independent film as a runner. Plus, over the last 5 years has been a constant source of inspiration watching her grow in as a professional editor for film and television.
  2. Diana, Set/Art Director: Created an opportunity to do work experience in art direction for a show that currently airs on Foxtel in Australia.
  3. Mike, Teacher: He always gives great advice and direction in working towards what I want achieve in my desired field.
  4. Kyle, Youth Outreach Worker: He works for Queer Screen Australia and has offered me the chance to work in outreach with queer content for LGBT youth.
  5. Jason, Boss (cinema): He’s always wanting to discuss and encourage me in my pursuits. Has offered me work in design within the company.

Examples of internships available as a stepping-stone to my desired position:

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 11.38.24 PMScreen Shot 2017-04-02 at 11.39.03 PMScreen Shot 2017-04-02 at 11.40.24 PMScreen Shot 2017-04-02 at 11.42.13 PM

Three potential Internships/Apprenticeships/ Professional Pathways (expanding on mentor descriptions):

  1. With my work experience with the production company who creates content for Foxtel I would be based in the art department. I got this opportunity through a family friend who is a set decorator. When working this production company, I would directly answer to the Head Art Director but work more closely with the set decorating team.
  2. My cousin has offered me the opportunity to work on a feature film set in late April, early May, in Cowra. Her friends who have written and directed the feature, have been in contact with me but have yet to completely fill me in on what my duties would be. I’d imagine I would be a runner, filling in any gaps needed. The work would be paid but a little amount as it’s a small independent film with limited funding.
  3. I recently volunteered for the Mardi Gras Film Festival where I met a variety of people. I was asked if I was interested in joining a youth outreach council. The council would be run by Queer Screen Australia’s youth worker who would co-ordinate a range of people from varying backgrounds, in developing ideas on how to distribute queer content to LGBT youth. Also the council would possibly look at making queer content more accessible and relatable through social media, film/television and events.

Week 4-mind map


 Pedestrian 2017, Film Internships, Pedestrian, viewed 20 March 2017, <https://www.pedestrian.tv/jobs/search/?keywords=Film&classification=0&location=0&sublocation=0&job_type=0&subclassification=0&salary_start=0&salary_end=1000000>

Week 3: Working with Passion/Finding Motivation

Who are my heroes?

Ridley Scott and the writers of Saturday Night Live.

What does Ridley Scott do?

Ridley Scott is an English film director and producer.

I admire Ridley Scott mainly on the diverse types of work that he chooses to work on. Not only has he made great science fiction films such as Alien, Prometheus, and the Martian but also he produced shows such as the Good Wife which does not resemble the films previously mentioned. He shows that a creator can be interested in a wide array of genres, not limiting themselves to specific archetype.

How Ridley Scott got his start

Scott attended Northern Arts School and Royal College of Art. He describes these years as being very valuable to him and that he still draws from what he learnt in art school to this day. While attending art school Scott got a start in commercials, where he learnt to be quick on his feet and to think more visually. He then continued this path of commercial making for close to 30 years while creating other content. (Guidry 2015)

After college, Donn Pennebaker and Richard Leacock offered Scott a job in design and photography in New York, after he persistently hung around the building they worked in. He had previously rejected a job in fashion photography, which he admits, that could of made him stray from ever making films. After this he returned to the BBC where he continued advertising creating commercials. Scott didn’t make his first film until he was 40 years old. His first film was called ‘The Duellists.’ (Guidry 2015)

In the video below Ridley Scott discusses his early career. Skip to 0:55. 

Influences/Influencers for Ridley Scott:

  • The Searchers (Western movie)
  • Ingmar Bergman
  • Kurosawa
  • John Cassavetes

Habits Ridley Scott maintains on a regular basis:

  • Storyboarding anything and everything
  • Drawing
  • Analysing and reflecting on his work constantly and if it’s good to move on and keep creating. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” He expresses how important it is to keep learning no matter how confident you feel in your field.
  • And something as simple as constantly watching new content and experiencing all types of cinema to help enhance his work.

(Guidry 2015)

Saturday Night Live Writers

 Other heroes in my field that I admire are the writers of the show Saturday Night Live. Tina Fey in particular has been a great influence on me. From small town improvisation actress in community theatre to one of the head writers of SNL, she’s nothing short of a driven role model for aspiring female comedic creators.

The short time limit that these writers develop performative pieces’ week after week is awesome. Being able to create humorous content under pressure while working with several other crew members from actors to set decorators to create a live production for television, takes a unique sort of person.

In the video below, various writers throughout the history of Saturday Night Live share their creative process and experiences while working on the show.


BBC Worldwide 2009, Ridley Scott on his early career- Mark Lawson Talks to: Ridley Scott- BBC, online video, 25 September, YouTube, viewed 16 March 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhPA3UsJurk> 

Guidry, K 2015, AFI Film Fest: Ridley Scott Tales ‘The Martian, His Influences, ‘Alien’ & More, Indie Wire, viewed 13 March 2017, <http://www.indiewire.com/2015/11/afi-film-fest-ridley-scott-talks-the-martian-his-influences-alien-more-104746/>

The Hollywood Reporter 2015, SNL Writers Share Their Process: SNL 40th Anniversary, online video, 5 February, YouTube, viewed 16 March 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2DJxo5XpFI>

Week 2: Research Processes

Where did cinema start?

Moving pictures came to light in the 1890’s, with the short motion pictures. Previously to that from the 1850’s-90’s, photographers had been experimenting with human motion using still photographs.

The Lumiere Brothers were pioneers in the motion picture field. Their films documented solely movement of people or objects, plot and story was yet to be added.

Hollywood started to become the home of motion pictures in the early 1900s. Although at this point, most creators in the industry were till avoiding storytelling in their films. D.W. Griffith was the first director to experiment and create a full-length feature film.

In the 1920’s actors started to carry the films. The popularity and talent of the actor became the defining feature of films. The 50’s brought along more niche and specific films. By the late 50’s television was more prominent adding a whole new set of rules to the screen industry.

5 Comedic Producers/Creators that influence me:

Lorne Michaels and the writers of Saturday Night Live

Amy Poehler: Parks and Recreation

Tina Fey: 30 Rock

Paul Feig: Bridesmaids

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jackson: Broad City

Saturday Night Live:

Saturday Night Live uses both stage and live television to create a medium that is uniquely it’s own. It turns improvisation and television on it’s head. The improvisation becomes practiced and the television becomes more like a theatre performance. The show has had a long history, spanning from the early 70’s to the present. A lot of things from style of comedy to cameras changing from film to digital has influenced the making of Saturday Night Live. The show is able to be a lot faster than it used to because of digital cameras and other technologies.

In the video below is a ‘cold open’ between the first skit and the monologue on Saturday Night Live. It features direction, set changes, costume changes and live camera work in limited space of time.

Broad City: 

Broad City is important in comedic shows for portraying women in a way that was only ever slightly shown on television. Physical comedy is also a major player.

What Does a Film Producer do? 

A producer, depending on the budget and man power of a film/show can do anything from:

  • Employ various professionals needed e.g. accountants, directors, lawyers etc.
  • Inspire commitment
  • Raise funds, secure finance
  • Assist the writing team
  • Distribution

(The Conversation 2014)

What does a film/television writer do?

 Each major film or television show has a different process when it comes to the hierarchies of the pre-production team.

In the video below, the writing team of the television show Bates Motel explain how they navigate the creative process in the ‘The Writers Room.’



A & E 2014, Bates Motel: The Writers’ Room (Season 2) A&E, online video, 12 March, YouTube, viewed 8 March 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqtbB3Z9n34>

The Conversation 2014, Explainer: what does a film producer do?, The Conversation, viewed 8 March 2017, <http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-does-a-film-producer-do-22173>

The History of Motion Pictures, viewed 8 March 2017, <http://faculty.washington.edu/baldasty/JAN13.htm>

The Tonight 2016, Creating Saturday Night Live- Cold Open to Monologue Set Change, online video, 23 December, YouTube, viewed 8 March 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00jIG1Sq8lg>



Week 1: Defining my practice

Figuring out my practice:

  • What field am I most interested in?

Anything to do with digital media, particularly screen based.

  • Key Words related to my field:

Script writing, production, directing, editing, film, animation, composition.

  • What roles or tasks do I hope to pursue?

week 1 brainstorm

  • Projects I have created in the past that have helped develop my interest in screen and Media:

– My short film ‘Exchanging Souls’ I created with 10 other of my peers in my video class has helped me realise how much I enjoy creating an original idea and setting it into motion. Creating this project was great for my overall skills in film making and organisational skills.

– Writing the script for my radio piece based off War of the Worlds in first year helped me realise how much I like script writing. For this project we had to recreate the original radio play War of the Worlds. This task saw me take on all roles of a crew. I was the script writer, director, editor and producer. Being able to take on various roles while creating student projects has benefitted me greatly not only in the sense that I learn from it but it helps me find what I am good at in a supportive environment.

– This year I am studying a Statement of Attainment in Directing and Production Management alongside my Bachelor of Digital Media. I have already learnt valuable skills in the pre production process such as budgeting and casting for a film.

  • 5 Important Skills and Knowledge for my field:

1. Time management

2. Practice

3. Imagination

4. Communication

5. Team Co-operation