Go on a Quest to Capture Invader’s Street Art —

Start in Paris.

Cameras click non-stop atop the Eiffel Tower, but the photogenic cityscape isn’t the only sight worth snapping. Sharp eyes might spot a little blue alien that was affixed to the monument last year – it’s just one of 1,437 pieces of Invader art that has camera-phone-toting fans scouting the city to add to their digital-art collections.

For more than two decades Invader, the anonymous Parisian street artist, has plastered walls and structures with his signature ceramic-tiled mosaics, which evoke the pixelated esthetic of Japanese arcade classic Space Invaders. In 2014, he launched a free FlashInvaders app – and a modern scavenger hunt began. The retro-style mosaics (3,861 and counting) have popped up in 79 cities worldwide, and fittingly, you can even find them in outer space on the International Space Station.

Each artwork is meticulously catalogued on the official website, space-invaders.com, but the exact addresses are kept secret. Sleuthing for locations has become something of a competitive sport among locals and travellers alike – each Invader you “flash” (that is, photograph with the app) earns anywhere from 10 to 100 points. The current top score: over 81,000, racked up by a player who has hunted down 2,700-plus Invaders.

March 25, 2020
A collage of eight photos capturing pixel art on buildings in Paris

“I like to think of FlashInvaders as the original Pokémon Go, but instead of looking at a screen, you have to look up, down and all around a city,” says Anne Ditmeyer, a Paris-based creative consultant and the blogger behind Prêt à Voyager, who has tracked down more than 530 Invaders to date. She’s walked for hours in the quest for a flash, and once day-tripped to Versailles expressly for Invader hunting – the search taking her beyond the typical tourist attractions. “I discovered so many great places I would have totally missed had I not been searching for Invaders.”

While Paris still boasts the highest number of Invader art installations, the latest invasion took over an entire island with 58 mosaics popping up on Djerba in Tunisia last year. Addictive gameplay and appreciation for street art aside, viewing a destination with eyes wide open is the true win, Ditmeyer says. “Even when I don’t see an Invader to photograph, I inevitably notice some other detail that I’ve never seen before.”
 

3 Far-out Spaces Invaded

  • Cancún Marine Park, Mexico Somewhere under the sea, three Invader mosaics are attached to Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater sculptures, following a 2009 collaboration with the fellow artist.

  • Thimphu, Bhutan Invader’s 2018 placement of a (since removed) piece inside the Cheri Goemba monastery sparked controversy, although the artist contends he had the monks’ blessing.

  • Out of this World The ultimate mission (impossible?) for Invader art collectors: snapping the Space2 mosaic, now orbiting Earth on the International Space Station’s Columbus module.

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