Are These Photos of Cicada Shell Art Real?


In May 2021, as Brood X cicadas started to emerge after 17 years underground, a set of photographs started to circulate on social media that supposedly showed a series of sculptures constructed with cicada shells:

These sculptures were truly made with the shells of cicadas. It should be noted that all of these images are several years old, however, and do not feature Brood X cicada shells. 

The image in the top left of the Transformer-esque cicada sculpture was created in 2017 by an art student in Japan who posts on Twitter under the handle @ride_hero_. They wrote on their website that this “monster” was truly made of cicada shells. Here’s an excerpt from their page (translated via Google):

It can be said that monsters are familiar to Japanese people. Monsters do not actually exist in this world, they are images. However, because it exists in the world of images, monsters become objects of fear and charm.

I was fascinated and fascinated by such a monster. The existence of this monster is unconfirmed, but I imagined the soul as something that always accompanies it as an image. There is a story about whether the soul comes first or the body comes first. Is the body built in the soul? Is the soul drawn to the body? But I think the soul comes first.

As a result, the concept of the body emerges relatively when considering the soul. The “body” is nothing more than a vessel of the “soul.” From here I imagined the soulless body of the existence of corpses and shells.

Shells and corpses are not just vessels that have lost their souls. It also means that it is part of the soul’s trajectory that the soul was there. One day in October, a third year high school student, I crushed a cicada shell that had fallen in a high school corridor. Seeing the crushed cicada shells, I felt “mottainai”. [Mottainai is a Japanese term that can be translated to “What a waste!”]

I don’t know why I felt this “mottainai”, but at that time I felt that I could make something with this cicada shell. From there, I collected cicada shells. The familiar material that I used to make my work was the cicada shell.

I’m making a monster out of cicada shells.

I decided that the creatures in the image made up of a collection of soul vessels are the best to ask about the soul. This work is a soul drama that resembles the lives of cicadas and is a transfer of a part of my soul.

@Ride_Hero_ has posted several additional photos showing the process of making this cicada sculpture. You can see those images here

The other three images appear to have all been created by another Japanese college student named Tanikurakai. Buzzfeed News talked to Tanikurakai after his cicada sculpture of an Alien Baltan (top right), an arthropod-like alien from the Japanese television series “Ultraman,” went viral in 2018.

Tanikurakai told Buzzfeed News that he made this sculpture with about 30 shells from a variety of cicada species. Buzzfeed News reported (translated via Google):

Mr. Tanikura responded to BuzzFeed’s interview that “I made it with the idea that the beauty of the shell could be used for something . ” He collected about 30 shells in his garden and completed it in about a week.

He said that he used three types of cicadas, such as a large bear cicada where he wanted volume, a slender brown cicada where he was too big, and a small and brittle kempfer cicada as an accent on his face. 

Tanikura shared other images of cicada sculptures that he made, including the “Godzilla” and “Alien” sculptures shown in the collage above. 

ChinaDaily.com reports that another Japanese artist, Zhang Zhenwu, also creates sculptures from cicada shells. A video of Zhenwu’s work can be seen below:

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