An Interview with Space Invader
By Josh Ellingson
You might know French street artist Space Invader for his 80’s video game inspired mosaics. You may have studied the meticulous maps that pinpoint the location of each phase of the Invasion. Perhaps you have sought out one of his pixilated creatures but we found the Invader himself hidden in a mysterious nook in an oft overlooked Parisian cranny. Space Invader had this to say about creation, anonymity, and the further invasion of our space.
HF: Can you elaborate on why anonymity is important to you?
SI: Anonymity is important for me because what I'm doing is illegal. That was the first reason why I didn't want to give my real name or show my face to journalists. I don't care about that though. The main point of an artist is the work. Also, I like this idea of being unknown in my normal life, like superheroes.
HF: How did the idea for this world-wide installation come about? Did you set out to conquer the world with your creations or did it multiply into something bigger as things went on?
SI: I started to do it in Paris, because it is where I was born and where I live. I realized pretty quick that to be an interesting this project should take place all over the planet. I started to travel a lot to "Invade" the most cities and continents that I could. That is an endless project because the world is so big.
HF: Have there been any aborted missions? Are there any space invaders out there waiting to be finished or repaired?
SI: I generally hate aborted missions. Each time that happens (for all kind of reasons) I go back to the same location to do it again until I get it. I never really failed!
HF: What was your artwork like before the Invasion?
SI: As far as I remember I have always been doing lots of stuff, but I did not know that that could be art. When I realized it could be art, I thought that I wanted to live as an artist and that means living for and around your art. Then before starting the "space invasion" project I did a lot of art and experiments with many different media.
HF: Some of your more recent work is created with Rubik's Cubes pieces or whole cubes. How did that idea happen? Have you always been fascinated by the Cube?
SI: I feel it’s a logical and interesting development of my work. Like the Space Invaders, the Rubik's Cube is a game from the 80's, made with colorful squares. The cube is a fascinating object because it is both very simple and very complicated. Did you know, for example, that there are more that 43 billion different possible combinations for a Rubik’s Cube ? At the moment I use the Rubik's Cube like a painter uses painting. I like the idea that it was not made for that use, but that's working very well. I called that period "Rubikcubist".
HF: Do you consider peeling the stickers off the cube cheating?
SI: I cannot cheat because the Rubik's cubes I use are fake ones and the colors are made of plastic and not stickers. That makes me good at cube manipulation, because I need hundreds of cubes to make one canvas and I have to manipulate each one of them.
HF: I like that some of them are made with what looks like unsolved cubes, creating a pixels-inside-of-pixels look. Do these creatures fit into a broader plan of the documented invasion, or are they more like stand-alone sculptures?
SI: The Rubikcubist pieces I do are perfect for indoor shows. That is the main reason I started to make some pieces. But I could not resist to put up a few pieces in the streets because that is so unexpected to see dozens or hundreds of Rubik's cubes glued on a wall. I love this idea. Last summer I did a piece in Paris with more than 300 Rubik's cube that I glued on a wall. The piece weight was more that 30 Kg and I needed 15 Kg of cement to fix it.
HF: What's up with all the European conceptual graffiti? I'm seeing a lot of unusual figurative street art from folks like you, Fafi, and Banksy. Do you think there is a movement away from the roots of letter forms and spray paint?
SI: I think that street art has been in existence since the origin of art! First drawings were made on walls not on canvas. In France there is a tradition about using the streets to communicate. In my case I did not practice graffiti before I started this project, but I was very excited by the idea of working in the streets. Street artists and graffiti writers are obviously connected, because they are working in the same space, they both watch carefully the city, looking for good spots! Then everybody notices the works of everybody.
HF: You made a special edition set of sneakers that leave a trail of Space Invaders when you walk around with them on. Do you have any other plans for "consumer culture" like toys, clothing, or personal grooming devices?
SI: I'm not really interested in "consumer culture". I just think that an artist is someone who produces things. When I think that something is a good idea I do my best to produce it. That can be a painting or an edition of sneakers. I don't think that making some sneakers is a good idea, but I think that making some sneakers with stamp soles to invade when you walk is a good idea. That is why I did it.