In the times we find ourselves currently living in with the current state of always advancing technology both physically & digitally, there are so many (always) advancing ways in which we can execute something digitally. Including the way in which we create/ present our art. Artists tend to either take advantage of this technology in their process of art or stick to old processes. Aki Inomata is an example of an artist in which uses it to her advantage.
The 4th of April I visited the “Out of Hand: Materializing the Digital” exhibition at the Powerhouse museum. The exhibition contains works in which examine the place & impact of digital technology. One work in which really caught my attention was Japanese artist: Aki Inomata’s “White Chapel” from his series: Why Not Hand Over a ‘Shelter’ to Hermit Crabs? Series (2014-15).
The installation is presented both digitally & physically. With the medium form of a video presentation & live installation. The digital aspect of this work: The ‘video’ itself is of a Hermit crab crawling through rock pools, a rather ordinary scenario for a hermit crab however in the video itself the crab has a model chapel placed on its back. The physical aspect of this work is presented in front of the projected video. With the use of three glass cabinets. In each cabinet is the actual models of the Chapels as seen in the video. The whole work is set in a dark space with the only light coming from the video & a small light in every cabinet below the models creating a focus point for the audience you’re drawn into the light. The light is almost utopian it’s somewhat glamourous to look at. Especially with the well-crafted chapel.
The interesting thing about these models is that they are 3d printed & not sculptured. This without intention creates a strong impact on the way in which artists execute their works. With sculpture & physically modelling items as a category in contemporary art itself this use of digital technology creates a new medium of art for graphic designers & artist to create models as a mini sculptor would.
“The Inside of a hermit crab shell has a spiral shape, which cannot be realized by hand-carving but only by building layers. I knew that 3d printing was the best suited to do that” (Inomata, A 2015)
Implementing this new digital way of art as advanced & incredible as it is does also create boundaries in which actually physically modelling itself wouldn’t. Size for example. Size has always played a large role in contemporary art in every form. The concept of taking something and pushing it to a giant life like size adds a personified/ realistic element to the work. Many artists have created an identifiable name for themselves using size including Jeff Wall with his photography. With the use of a 3d Printer size could be a boundary as they are only capable of creating something confined to the space/size of the printer. 3D printers are also very pricey & not easily accessible choosing to use a 3d printer in order to create your work could go over your set budget. This is an issue with the current advancing state in technology it’s all great however only a niche of creatives with a budget are able to abuse the use of this technology.
I’ve talked a bit about the boundaries in which are involved with the use of this new technology in saying that this it also creates a whole new spectrum of forms & mediums for artists to create works. There are no boundaries to art really? Using our innovative minds art seems to see no boundaries maybe only in technology restraints. This is similar in the film industry; James Cameron’s idea for avatar was forced to stay an idea for 15 years as he was waiting for the technology to catch up to his ideas. Sure enough it did. Maybe there are some artists who have had 3d printing in mind for years & just held out for it.
A strong statement in which Aki is taking with this series is her fed up-ness with the current cultural state of architecture in Japan. After travelling and experiencing the architecture of western society, she is starting to believe that all Japan is doing is stealing architecture from every other country in western civilization. “I ask myself, ‘are we Japanese living in a mimicry of western world?” (Inomata, A (2014-15). Why not hand over a “shelter” to hermit crabs Aki Inomata).
Something that fascinated me with this work is the historical context behind Aki’s statement with the work. Been from Japan Aki executes a strong cultural element to this work. The chapel in which the hermit crab has on its back is no ordinary chapel. It is a religious facility however with no actual religious attributes apart from the appearance. It is used only for weddings.
This is strongly touching on the religious culture of Japan in which is almost non-existent with only 1% of Japanese people actually Christians. This is derived from the history of Japan itself which has always tried to abolish Christianity from its surfaces dating back to the 17th century when any Christian found in Japan was tortured & forced to denounce god publically & surrender their faith.
Interestingly enough despite this 60% of weddings in Japan are held in the style of a Christian wedding. This example of the use of Christian styled chapels despite the lack of Christians is what Aki is refereeing to when she questions Japan as a “Mimicry of the western world” (Inomata, A).
(Still from “Silence” (2017) – Denouncing Faith
But what is the relevance of the models to a hermit crab? Hermit crabs tend to change their shells as they grow. They test shells out and if they feel comfortable with the shell they will adapt it as their home.
Some are even forced to exchange shelters with stronger crabs. If the crabs liked the shelters in which Aki made for them they would move into the shelter & carry on with it. This plays with the concept of the Japanese taking ideas from western societies & executing it for themselves. The crab completely unfamiliar with the model chapel- completely unfamiliar with its structure/ background where it even came from somehow yet likes the model & decides to use it. Just as the Japanese appear to be doing with their architecture.
“My aim for this project was for hermit crabs to be able to move to different cities all over the world and exchange homes. So I chose these cities in order to include as many various kinds of building within each other” (Inomata, A 2015).
With the models not only is Inomata referencing western societies style but the idea of hermit crabs searching for shelter could relate to immigrants from Japan settling in Western Societies. This isn’t the first art work in which Inomata has touched on the topic of immigration. In her “No Man’s land exhibition Aki explores the tension between France & Japan in their history together. The work was ironically exhibited in the actual French Embassy in Japan. Really creating her mark on the topic with the choice of location related to the actual work.
I believe that Aki has successfully perfected her execution of her idea of creating a statement of the cultural appropriation of Japan. I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the exhibition myself.
Mufson, B (2015), What can hermit crabs teach about cultural appropriation? , Creators. (Viewed April 26th, 2017):
Inomata, A (2017), Why not hand over a “shelter” to a hermit crab? – White Chapels, Aki Inomata (Viewed April 25th 2017):
“Out of Hand: Materializing the Digital” Exhibition at Powerhouse Museum (Visited 4th April).