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The story behind those pixelated video game mosaics in Paris

If you’ve ever been to Paris, you’ve probably noticed the small pixelated art pieces that are scattered all around the city on buildings and various other hard surfaces.

Or maybe you haven’t seen or noticed them in Paris, but you’ve seen similarly pixelated mosaics in one of the other 79 cities around the world where they can be found.

Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about right now. Huh? Here’s an example from Bolivia (click here if you can’t see the embedded post below):

These pixelated urban art pieces are the work of French artist Invader. Modeled after 8-bit video games from the 1970s and 1980s, Invader has been installing these mosaics since 1998 as part of his broader “Space Invaders” project. The first one was installed in Paris.

No two pieces are alike and they’re all made out of ceramic tiles so that they last. Invader also meticulously researches and then records each install location. He is basically trying to take over the world with his “invasions”. As of today, there are 4056 invaders in 80 cities.

Here’s a map. Sadly there are none in Toronto.

The goal of the project is to liberate art from what Invader calls “its usual alienators”, that being museums and other institutions. It is about bringing art out and into the public realm so that everyone can enjoy it. And this is precisely what makes his mosaics so wonderful — it is their playful integration into the urban landscape.

But these aren’t exactly sanctioned pieces of art. If he started out by asking, the answer probably would have been no.

Invader thinks of himself as a kind of hacker of public realms. He keeps his identity concealed. He installs these mosaics during the night (from what I have read). And sometimes he gets in a lot of trouble.

Sometimes they also get removed by the building owner, though at this point his mosaics are pretty well known, so I can’t imagine many owners not wanting to be “invaded.”

But let me ask all of you this: If you owned a building in a major city and woke up tomorrow morning to a Space Invader on the front of it, would you celebrate it, apathetically leave it, or would you remove it immediately?


  1. Tanya

    The idea is really great and I’m a fan of public art. But! The BIA in our neighbourhood is really stringent about eliminating graffiti. We had a really interesting graffiti with a star wars figure glued in the middle, and we had to remove it to comply with by laws. Really sucked. Too bad that art wasn’t much higher up, so we would have had a good reason to leave it alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. doug pollard

    Leaving it or removing it would depend totally on whether I liked it or not. I like the comment above … who decides what is graffiti and what is art? I live in a fairly artistic Mexican community where all public painting is encouraged. There is no graffiti in the sense of tagging or political statements just tons of murals or icons of local scenery or history etc. Nothing is ever removed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. It’s totally subjective. I’m sure it has also changed over time. I would imagine that people in Paris generally appreciate Invader’s work more today than they did in 1998.


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