Notorious street artist Invader's pixelated 8-bit video game character mosaics, which began popping up on Paris streets in the mid-90s, have always been richly subversive—a form of public hacking, if you will. Running parallel to this subversive approach, which has taken his work to Tanzania and the International Space Station, is a more anarchic type of childlike whimsy, where Invader makes passersby flash back to their childhood experiences. In Invader's latest exhibition, Hello My Game Is…, now on at Musée en Herbe, an art museum for children, the graffito takes this a step further: he encourages children and adults alike to engage with his work in an interactive way.
Upon entry, visitors are met with arcade games that originally inspired Invader. Arcade machines for Pac-Man, Pong, Breakout, Tetris and others are fixed into the wall, and visitors are able to play the games before moving on to the rest of the exhibition.
Invader also created a giant interactive world map of the 67 cities that he has "invaded" with street art over the last two decades. There is a room dedicated to Rubik's Cubes, which is rather appropriately The Rubicubism. For this part of the exhibition, Invader disassembled 1,320 Rubik's Cubes to create pieces that range from sculptures to works that resemble painted canvases.
The exhibition's final room features a number of Invader's works on paper, and a wall outfitted with colorful, pixel-like magnets that allows kids and adults to create their own Invader-style works. Placed in glass cases, much like museum relics, are several of the masks Invader has worn while out creating his street art, as well as a life-sized cutout of Invader wearing a scarf, a hat and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask. All in all, Invader's exhibition will appeal not just to kids and fans of his street art, but the kids still living inside each adult.
Invader tells Creators that Musée en Herbe originally approached him with the idea for Hello My Game Is..., and he immediately liked it. Apart from putting up hundreds of pieces across Paris streets, he hadn't done an exhibition in the city since 2011.
"I thought the timing for a new exhibition was good," he says. "Doing it at the Musée en Herbe was a way to do something unexpected and a bit outside the box, considering the seriousness of the art world."
"I tried to design this show specifically for the children," he adds. "For example, the artworks are [hung] at their height, and there are many installations where they can play and interact. Even the catalog is a games book."
Invader says the idea was to invite the kids to play with him. Like his other exhibitions, he created work specifically for this show. Each room was therefore a way to directly interact with one aspect of his world. The world-building took almost a year to complete with the help of the museum team, who guided Invader as far as designing it specifically for kids.
While it's always been obvious through his street invasions that Invader loves the 70s and 80s era of arcade games, it isn't just about the colors and the 8-bit graphics for him. It's more about the idea of the immersive digital realities of past video games bleeding over into current reality.
"From a conceptual point of view, those games represent the prehistoric times of the digital age," says Invader. "They also embody the first signs of the invasion of digital in our lives. From an aesthetic point of view, I love the simplicity and the beauty of the 8-bits where you have to create images with very few pixels and colors."
"The architecture of the space is important to me as I think of how the works and the scenography combine," Invader says. "Doing an exhibition for me is like doing an invasion in the new city—it takes as much energy and time. That is why I don't so many of them. I want to keep invading the streets!"
Invader hopes visitors enjoy Hello My Game Is…, but ideally he would enjoy it if children and their parents go out into the streets to find his urban interventions. This can happen either by chance or with the help of his FlashInvaders smartphone app and Invasion Guide maps, which are available on his website.
"I hope they will have a good time," says Invader. "That they will realize that behind each little mosaic they can see in the streets there is a much larger world to be discovered."
Click here to see more work by Invader.