if Space Invaders took over Paris
This is the fifth installment in a series on the French-themed trip I took this summer, which included two weeks in Paris. In my first post, I fill you in on how I became such a Francophile. See my other posts, and come along on a Parisian food tour inspired by David Lebovitz, see me try out his recipe for pain d’épices au chocolat, and read my homage to lovely Montmartre.
Thanks for reading and please check back in, there’s a lot more to come!
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Yes, a post on Space Invaders. Those of you who know me may be surprised that I am writing about an ’70s/’80s video game instead of food. True, I’ve never been much of a gamer, and almost of all of my “screen time” is spent with the one I am looking at as I type these words. I don’t watch much TV or get to see as many movies as I’d like, so the plane is a good time for me to catch up. The choice of programming can be pretty eclectic depending on the airline, and since I have the option to change at will and frequently, I find myself being more experimental in my choices when I’m in the air. During the many hours of plane flights this summer, I finally saw a few episodes of Mad Men and liked it less than I expected; watched Nurse Jackie and found myself somewhat guiltily hooked; saw depressing Hollywood and French films involving infidelity and death; and was charmed by a biopic on Bill Cunningham, the New York Times fashion chronicler.
Among this motley assortment, I watched Exit Through the Gift Shop, the (pseudo?)-documentary directed by well known international street artist Banksy. In the introduction, we meet Thierry Guetta, a Los Angeles based artist otherwise known as Mr. Brainwash. We see the development of Mr. Brainwash’s art beginning with his maniacal and persistent videotaping of everything, literally everything, he sees and experiences while awake. Mr. Brainwash explains that he was first introduced to street art by his cousin, a French street artist known as Invader. Invader takes his name from the pioneering video game Space Invaders. Since the late 1990s he has been creating tile mosaics modeled after those characters and pasting them up on prominent public buildings around Paris and in other cities around the world. These are known as “Invasions,” and Invader documents their locations with books and maps. The Invaders have made it thus far to other cities in France including Montpellier, Marseille, Avignon, Rennes, Bordeaux, and Lille, and internationally to London, Cologne,Geneva, Newcastle, Rome, Berlin, Lausanne, Barcelona, Bonn, Ljubljana, Vienna, Graz, Amsterdam, Bilbao, Manchester, Darlington Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego, Toronto, Bangkok,Tokyo, Katmandu, Varanasi, Melbourne, Perth and Mombasa. They recently made an appearance in Brazil.
It was the serendipity of travel and in-flight programming that made tracking Invader’s mosaics one of the themes of my Paris trip this summer. Without even trying, I saw the extent of the Paris Invasions everywhere I walked in Paris. Invader’s use of tiles to mimic the pixels of these early computer graphics is brilliant. They bring color and whimsy to some otherwise staid walls and street corners in Paris. The locations for the mosaics seem random, but apparently are chosen and mapped out strategically, using diverse criteria, which may be aesthetic, strategic or conceptual. Locations are as highly visible as around the corner and across the street from the Sacre Coeur
and as hidden as on what would seem to an outsider (like me) as the middle of nowhere. Typically, mosaics are located 10 to fifteen feet above the ground, within the normal gaze of a passing pedestrian.