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Invader keeps his identity a secret for legal reasons, pixellating his face in videos and photographs. However, we can get a great sense of his ethics, artistic goals and personality through his works. We also know that Invader is 43 years old, a French citizen, and a cousin of Mr. Brainwash (Thierry Guetta).
The Invasion of Paris: Invader Makes His Name
Invader studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, a Parisian art school, although he frequently tells interviewers outlandish stories about graduating from a tiling school on Mars.
In his early years, he was interested in punk music and rebellion and these interests helped Invader enter the world of street art. Unlike his many contemporaries, however, Invader eschewed spray paint cans in favor of tile and grout.
“[A tile is] very permanent,” Invader said in an interview. “It is meant to be put outside.”
In 1998, Invader began his masterwork and immediately gained notoriety. He installed mosaic pieces resembling the pixellated villains in the arcade game Space Invaders throughout his home city of Paris. To confused Parisians, the works seemed to appear overnight in both high-traffic locations and hidden street corners.
Invader began visiting other major cities, installing similar mosaics in Amsterdam, Berlin, Miami, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong and in dozens of other locations. He was arrested in 2010 for placing a mosaic on the world-famous Hollywood sign and was forced to pay a fine.
“My mission,” Invader said regarding the project, “is to invade the planet with video game characters made with tiles that I put on walls in big cities all around the world.”
“Like a mission, I really stay two or three weeks and I try to spread the invasion all around the city.”
Although Invader’s favorite subjects are video game characters, he varies his colors and designs, often allowing them to blend in with their surrounding environments. Invader says that his real-life artistic invasions are much more entertaining to him than anything he’d ever found in an arcade.
“This is the most addictive game I’ve ever played,” he said in 2011.
Transitioning to the Gallery
In 2000, Space Invader began showing his works in galleries such as the Magda Danysz Gallery in Paris, the MAMA Gallery in Rotterdam, and most recently at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. These showings allowed him to make steady money from his works and to experiment with more detailed, permanent pieces.
One of Invader’s most important innovations was “Rubikcubism,” a style of mosaic art that uses various Rubik’s Cube configurations to create extremely complex images. His Rubik image of anarchist Florence Rey from 2005 inspired hundreds of imitators and helped to establish Invader as a serious artist.
Recently, he has used QR codes–developed in characteristically simple mosaics with bathroom tile–to explore the relationship between the high-tech and low-tech. Gallery visitors with smartphones can take a picture of the piece below with a special app to decode the hidden message, which simply reads, “this is an invasion.”
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Invader has successfully monetized his artwork, selling home pieces and commissioning his work through a website (space-invaders.com). This site also features a map with flashing icons that indicate the locations of his mosaics.
Invader has not stopped installing his mosaics illegally. While visiting Los Angeles for a MOCA show titled “Art in the Streets” in 2011, Space Invader was allegedly arrested for vandalism after the LAPD caught him with tile and grout near Little Tokyo’s Perez building.
The arrest sparked a debate among connoisseurs and concerned Los Angeles residents regarding the relationship between street art and vandalism. The LAPD and other institutions expressed their concerns that the mainstream acceptance of artists like Space Invader inspires other graffiti artists to illegally tag buildings.
“If you want to be an artist, buy a canvas,” one police officer said before the MOCA exhibition.
“Each time I put a new piece in the street,” Invader counters, “it is like a memorable exhibit.”
Despite the controversy, Invader was apparently released without charges after the arrest. For now, he’s still out there, promoting pixel aesthetics and making his mark on galleries, city walls, and landmarks around the world.