Since 1998, Invader has conquered the world with his Space Invaders, his iconic ceramic tile mosaics based on popular 8-bit video games. At MIMA, the anonymous French street art legend exhibits another equally playful aspect of his practice: Rubikcubism.
How do myths arise? From the need for stories that explain the world? From the need to make sense of what we as human beings seemingly incessantly and inevitably struggle with? To educate and entertain? urban legend Invader calls it “a happy misfortune”, somewhere in the blessed year of 1998. “At the time, I had no connection at all to the graffiti movement, which to me felt too American and was linked to hip-hop culture, while I myself felt much more had with the rock scene.As a result, I did not immediately see the importance of that gesture when I installed my first mosaic on the street.It was just one of the many things I tried in the late 1990s, my “Experiments went almost everywhere. I was still looking for my path and my style, and I was witnessing the emergence of the digital world where the first PCs appeared.”
“The first work in the public space therefore lived a solitary existence for months, until one day I realized that the gesture had weight, that I had found a new kind of urban expression, and that – since it is a Space Invader (from the popular 8-bit video games, ed.) – what was to follow was already planned for me: I had no choice but to dedicate myself to the total invasion of the urban space with the pixelated, ceramic tile mosaics. ”
INVADER WAS HERE
The myth was born, the mission known. Nearly a quarter of a century later, the counter stands at exactly 4,056 Space Invaders in 80 world cities: From Brussels to Melbourne, from Bangkok to Miami and from Mombasa to Potosi. In Mexico’s Cancun Bay, a few reside at the bottom of the ocean, and in 2015, Space2 was sent “home” aboard the International Space Station (ISS). “Every now and then I am asked if I would not one day hire people to install my mosaics in the streets with me, but the answer to that question can only be ‘no’. So far, I have laid them all out myself. It’s just part of my story, of the process I’m going through. If you see one of my mosaics on a street corner, it means ‘Invader was here’. “
“But it’s true that I like the idea of invading new areas and finding new ways to do it,” Invader continues. In this urge to conquer, for example, the idea of a disco ball projecting hundreds of Space Invaders of light or a waffle iron pouring the infamous pixelated aliens into a digestible form was born. “From the beginning, it seemed coherent and effective for me to push this project as far as possible and work on a planetary scale. So I ended up in remote areas of the world, places far beyond the usual artistic circles (Africa, India, Nepal. .), where no artist came after me. Traveling shapes you, it’s one of the most beautiful things you can experience: exploring new areas, getting to know new cultures. It helped to ensure that I never got tired of this. This is a never ending project, it will take me more lives to complete it. Well, I like the saying: ‘get small, but see it big’. “
‘Stay small’ does not only refer to the intimacy of Invader’s practice. The Frenchman’s universe is also based on a nostalgia for the time when small wondering moments made you dream big. “Our childhood marks us for life,” he confirms. “In the early years you are formed, you discover the world, and many memories take us back to that time. In my practice as an artist, that connection to childhood emerges very naturally. I think it was Picasso who said, ‘All children are artists, the problem is to remain an artist when you grow up’.
Invader eagerly picks up from that childhood. He was nine when Japanese Taito released the 8-bit video game in 1978 Space invaders launched a pixelated variant along with the tangible reality. For Invader, these pixels still make up the elementary particles, the basic alphabet in an infinitely growing vocabulary – right from the colorful characters in video games such as. Space invaders† Pac-Man† sonic and Mario Bros. to a variety of cultural icons such as Andy Warhol, CCTV, Star warsManneken Pis, The Ramones or The Dude from The great Lebowski† “An artist is forced to be associated with his time, like a sponge that absorbs the world around him and reinterprets it in its own way,” he says. And that also applies to the universal building blocks that he uses. “The world we live in today is inextricably linked to the advent of the digital, and it’s clear that the pixel, Space Invaders or Rubik’s Cubes translate it. In that sense, my art is closely linked to life, to that node. , the revolution in the history of mankind that has given us new technologies, smartphones, computers, social media … My mosaics give a body to these pixels and are therefore naturally related to all that. “
In our ultra high definition At times, these pixels are also an anachronism, a deliberate break in the smooth iconoclasm that plagues our eyes daily. The works that Invader cements in every nook and cranny of our reality are barbs that hold the gaze and tear up both space and our perception of it. On the one hand, they enter the analog world with the digital image, on the other hand, they condense the digital image into its most basic component. To cross artificial boundaries between the screen and public space, technology and reality, dream and deed, and ultimately also art and life.
WORK HARD, PLAY HARD
This cross-border aspect is at once a gentle democratizing reflex and a rebellious political action. “Yes, absolutely!” Invader responds. “Although my art at first glance is not political, street art is basically an undermining act and thus inevitably political in nature. And it is without a doubt what has subconsciously stimulated me to do what I do, to free art from the slightly snobbish elite straitjacket that the world of galleries and museums can be. Working in public space allows you to make your art accessible to everyone, no matter who you are, clochard or president. Keith Haring also expressed the idea when he spoke about the drawings he made in the New York subway: ‘My creations see more visitors in one day than the Mona Lisa in a year.’
So something is at stake. Also personally. And Invader – who as an eighteen-year-old had learned to photograph and draw himself and without a precise idea of what direction his life should take, enrolled in the visual arts faculty – is fully aware of this. “Art saved my life. It’s a true obsession and a reason to be for me. And I indulge in it with my body and my soul! If I had not had art, I would no doubt have had existential problems. One touches something metaphysical about art, you subscribe to a tradition and a story. In the beginning, being an artist was a difficult knot for me, because you follow in the footsteps of all the geniuses of a bygone era. But I took the chance and stuck to it What I do may seem trivial to some, but to me it’s a game of extreme depth and seriousness. ‘Make it special or do not’: That statement is not mine, but I can completely identify with it. “
Also special is the second, equally playful, equally crazy exercise that Invader has practiced in his studio for almost twenty years, and which comes into the spotlight at MIMA – in series that, among other things, refer to famous villains (Rubik Bad Men) or the masterpieces of art history (Rubik’s masterpieces† “Like Space invaders Rubik’s Cube is originally a game that has also been associated with my generation since it was invented in 1974 when I was a child. I find that object downright fascinating, simple and complex at the same time and of incredible beauty. So it was only natural for me to embrace it and manipulate it in such a way that I could integrate it into my work. ”
The sculptures and paintings / objects that Invader himself conjures up from the world-famous brain teasers, and which he describes under the heading Rubikubism – a concept he invented in 2005 – is constantly on the verge of disappearing and appearing. Proximity hides your vision, distance (or intervention from your smartphone camera) reveals exactly what you are looking at. It is a fine metaphor for the area between seeing and seeing, between reality and vision, between pixel and image, where Invader feels so at home, and where he always insists on fleeing. Ready to invade space, one pixel after another. Whether it is with his mosaics on the street or with his ruby cubist adventures in his studio.
“I don’t see any dichotomy between the two aspects of my practice,” he says. “I have always tackled them both at the same time. It is important and difficult to be equally relevant and inventive in both areas, but for me they come from the same source. It’s about the same idea of discovery, adventure and even adrenaline. Underlying is the same need to share things and give the best of myself. ”
24/6> 8/1, MIMA, www.mimamuseum.eu