Friday, June 10, 2011

A Thousand Space Invaders

In addition to the Tuesday grammar session, the afternoon workshops regularly serve up another weekly highlight, namely the Thursday afternoon sorties pedagogiques. These take us out and about on a guided stroll through the streets of the city, usually with the goal of visiting some kind of cultural event or exposition. Yesterday's excursion was one of the most enjoyable to date.

First, a little background. After only a few days, any visitor to Paris will begin to notice a certain type of street art, dotted randomly on street corners throughout the city. Some typical examples:

The distinguishing feature is the inclusion of a little space invader critter in each of the mosaic images. They are all the work of a single "anonymous" street artist, known only as "Invader", who has been brightening the street corners of Paris with these images since 1999. Though they were initially greeted with hostility by the powers that be, at some point public opinion shifted in the artist's favor, and one senses that they have now become something of an institution. Personally speaking, it's always a pleasure when I look up and discover another one, lurking on some unexpected corner. They are scattered all over the city, though I've had better luck finding them on side streets than on the major boulevards. They span a considerable range, both in size and complexity of the design. The artist has "invaded" other cities as well, from Manchester to Perth, with several stopoffs along the way, e.g. to improve the Hollywood sign in L.A.

It turns out that this week marked the erection of the 1000th invader here in Paris. To recognize the occasion, there was an exhibition at one of the local performance art spaces, "La Generale", a converted former electricity plant. My friend Ellen had sent me an e-mail about the exhibition, which I passed on to our teacher Anne, who agreed that it would be an excellent destination for yesterday's sortie pedagogique.

The exhibition was terrific. One entered through a steel cargo container, from whose "ceiling" was suspended a disco ball that projected little space invaders on the container's sides, while one crunched across the floor which was littered with the little tiles used to form each mosaic. It was hard to photograph in a way that does it justice.

Inside, there were numerous examples of more ambitious works by the artist, all realized using the same mosaic tiling approach:

The centerpiece of the exhibition was an immense wall on which pictures of all 1,000 invader pieces had been mounted, in chronological order. It was impossible to capture the whole wall in a single picture, but here is a portion:

One could also buy a map of Paris, indicating the location of all thousand invaders, and watch a video of the artist in action.

The invader theme was ubiquitous:

(Not so) Delicious invader waffles were on sale:

My classmates were happy:

Anne was happy:

Everyone was happy. Well, maybe not everyone:

After dinner, I felt compelled to take my map and go out roaming the streets in search of invaders in the neighborhood. You can see the results here .

I haven't had as much fun in ages!

1 comment:

  1. Génial ! Moi aussi j'ai une collection de photos d'invaders mais j'ai du travail à faire, je n'ai trouvé qu'une quarantaine