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Flash Space Invaders: Expand Your Paris Exploration

This article was originally posted on July 6, 2022 on Bonjour Paris, the definitive insider’s guide to la vie Parisienne since 1995. The popular online event series, Bonjour Paris Live, complements the website’s rich variety of articles. Friends of Message Paris get a 20% discount on Bonjour Paris membership ($48 instead of $60 for the year), which includes free access to online events and shopping discounts with BP partners. More information at https://bonjourparis.com/messageparis/.


 

For years, near a favorite hotel bar on Paris’s Rue Dauphine, I noticed a tile mosaic of Star

Wars characters Chewbacca and C-3PO high on the side of a building. Chewbacca’s arms

are raised upward as if celebrating a success while C-3PO looks on arms akimbo. I

learned to enjoy the duo even more when I discovered that not only was the street art by a

French artist known as Invader, but proved it by using the artist’s app Flash Invaders. I

took a picture (called a “flash”) of the mosaic, the app determined it was authentic and I

earned my first 100 points.


I recently spent a couple of weeks in Paris finding Invader’s artwork, in which time I also

found a new way to look at and explore the city. By searching for Invaders, I better

appreciated the beauty of Paris’s buildings, their varied architecture, angles, corners and

zig-zag construction between sites that left sides of buildings open to hosting the work of

many street/urban artists and graffitists. In the search, I became more observant of the city

and discovered hidden corners along my usual paths, walked a few new streets and

expanded my Paris experience. By really looking at a neighborhood, I became more aware

of its personality and spirit while finding Invader’s art.

An Invader on the wall above a tapas bar © Martha Sessums

I respect and like graffiti, even the tags on trains and autoroute barriers, because graffiti

artists are just saying, “I’m here.” Modern street art seems to have overtaken the amount

of tags in cities and given all street artwork more respect. Today, Paris is more tolerant and

the tourism office includes tours of street art as ways to explore the city plus there are

many independent street art tour guides. But using the Invader app makes finding his tile

mosaics in Paris an individual act that brings the city closer to each player and takes them

beyond tourist spots.


Launched in 2014, the Flash Invaders app, free in the Apple App Store, is easy to use and

was very popular during the pandemic lockdown in Paris. Here’s how it works: find what

looks to be an Invader, flash as if taking a picture and the app reads the details from the

art and its location to confirm the art is a real Invader. If so, it adds it to your gallery and

assigns points. If it’s not an Invader, it says so with a nice sense of humor. My misses have

resulted in messages like “Missed. ZZZZZ!” or “Missed. Did you think it would be that

easy?” If I forgot I had flashed the street art before, the witty app message is: “Already

flashed, Tired today?”


“It’s fun to walk around and look for (Invader art), it’s a treasure hunt,” said Hélène, a 9-

year-old Parisian and Invader fan. “I like the tiles he uses. I also like looking with them with

my friends. I have more invaders than my friend Sasha.”

Flash Invaders app © Martha Sessums

Invader has been invading Paris for 24 years. He started in 1998 and chose the

appearance of pixelization with ceramic tiles for his Space Invaders alien art, an inspiration

from the video games he played while growing up in the 1970s and 80s. Why was Space

Invaders his muse?


“It is . . . about liberating Art from its usual alienators that museums and institutions can

be,” says Invader on his website. “But it is also about freeing the Space Invaders from

their video games, TV screens and to bring them in our physical world. . .They are the

perfect icons of our time, a time where digital technologies are the heartbeat of our world.”

Bugs Bunny-style Space Invader. © Martha Sessums

Graffiti has been a part of Paris since the Celtic Parisii were conquered by the Romans

who renamed it Lutetia. Romans etched names and drawings on street walls and

stonework and many examples can be found in museums. Modern street tagging, thanks

to the invention of spray paint cans, began in the 1960s in Philadelphia and New York. It

made its way to Paris and other European cities in the 1970s. Art styles and techniques

changed and many street artists have become popular and their artwork sought after,

such as American Jean-Michel Basquiat and British artist Banksy. There are many popular

French street artists including JR, Blek le Rat, Jef Aérosol, Miss Van and the late Miss Tic

(a favorite of Hélène’s).


Invader’s mosaics have expanded to include characters from Pac-Man, Super Mario

Brothers, Star Wars, QR codes, Rubik’s Cubes and even pixilation of fine art, including the

Mona Lisa. Out of 4,056 worldwide installations in 81 cities in 21 countries, he currently

has 1,200 installations in Paris. There were many more in Paris but some were taken down

because they were illegal or were stolen to collect or sell. He even invaded the Louvre

years ago, but his unauthorized art has been removed.

Invader’s street art © Martha Sessums

Invader’s hits can be found throughout Paris and even Versailles. (He has invaded 24 other

cities in France.) Check out the Tour Eiffel, Centre Pompidou, Palais de Tokyo, in

bookstores, restaurants, bars, jazz clubs, on many of the walls and corners of every

arrondissement and even on the roads to Charles de Gaulle airport. Look up into Space

too. An Invader was installed on the International Space Station in 2015. Okay, that one

may be hard to flash.


I was amazed at how many Invaders can be found in the Marais. I’ve walked the area often

and rarely noticed them but now I’m always on the lookout. The Invaders website is

helpful for finding some but being an observant Invader flâneur is just fun.


Everyone has a favorite Invader and Hélène has several.

Martha’s Flash Invaders Gallery © Martha Sessums

“I like so many of them, but there is one made as a bird carrying a branch in its beak, next

to the Seine, that I particularly like,” she said. “There’s also a space invader wearing a face

mask that Invader made during the pandemic. Another cool one is a self-portrait. It shows

Invader the artist wearing a mask, standing on a ladder, completing a mosaic space

invader on a wall. Another self-portrait shows Invader running away with a ladder from a

space invader he’s finished. Also, there are figures from Star Wars, like Princess Leia. You

can find her on Rue Princesse in Saint Germain.”


My favorite is the Chewbacca and C-3PO I first flashed. In two weeks, I found 26 Invaders

for a score of 1170 points. I’m just starting. Hélène has 512 Invaders and 15,580 points.

Her first found Invader was on the Saint Michel fountain. How many times have I walked

by that fountain and never seen the Invader? But when I do flash that one, I’ll raise up my

arms in victory like Chewbacca, which is what I do when the app approves my Invader

flashes. Like in the original game, flash those aliens.


Lead photo credit : Martha's Flash Invaders Gallery © Martha Sessums

 

About the Author: Intrigued by France since her first stroll along the Seine, Martha and her husband often travel to Paris to explore the city and beyond. She lives part-time on the Île de la Cité and part-time in the San Francisco Bay Area, delighting in its strong Francophone and French culture community. She was a high-tech public relations executive and currently runs a non-profit continuing education organization. She also works as the San Francisco ambassador for France Today magazine.


The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Message.

2 comentários


President - Beth
President - Beth
17 de mai. de 2023

Another fan of Invader here!🤓

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Laura  Guillaumin
Laura Guillaumin
17 de mai. de 2023

Big fan of Invader. In the city of Dijon, he made a great mustard jar.

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