Interview: Space Invader Explains How Street Art Is a Provocation of the Official Art System

The anonymous street artist brings his 8-bit mosaics to an art exhibition in Chicago.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Welcome to Art Provocateurs Week, in collaboration with Art Alliance, where we interview artists who are a part of the Shepard Fairey-curated "The Provocateurs" exhibition during Lollapalooza. Enter our contest for a chance to win free tickets to the exhibition or buy them here. The exhibition runs from July 31 to August 4 at Block 37 in Chicago.​​

The anonymous street artist Space Invader has covered regions across the world in his 8-bit mosaics, from Downtown Manhattan to a small village in the Swiss Alps. Often drawing inspiration from video games, cartoons, and other tokens of pop culture, the French artist's unmistakable creatures literally invade walls, street corners, and signage on every corner of the planet—and beyond. Last year, Invader launched one of his pieces into the atmosphere using a homemade weather balloon in Miami, a feat he documented in a video called ART4SPACE.

Now Invader is returning to Earth for "The Provocateurs," an exhibition curated by Shepard Fairey and presented by Art Alliance. We got in touch with the mosaic artist via email about his participation in the exhibition and his upcoming projects.


Doing street art is a provocation of the official art system.

How does your work fit into the vision behind “The Provocateurs”? Do you feel like you've been "provocative" over the years?

Doing street art is a kind of provocation, because you are not exhibiting where you are supposed to. It is a provocation of the official art system.

How did Shepard Fairey approach you about being in the exhibition? Did he give you any criteria for the work you were going to exhibit?

I have known Shepard for 15 years now. I have huge respect for him and his work. When he asked me to be part of a group show he was curating, I immediately accepted. He did not give me any criteria other than the tittle of the show. He gave me total freedom of creation.

Do you see today as a pivotal moment for street art?

When I started my "invasions," the word "street art" did not even exist yet! Now street art is a well-known international movement. It is a pivotal moment, because it is more and more renown by the fine arts establishment.

In your opinion, how has street art changed over the years, going from a DIY activity on the streets to work hung in a gallery?

In my case, I've always been creating in both of those environments: the streets and the art galleries.


What are you working on right now?

At the moment I'm doing a lot of drawings on notebooks, where I use the squares to draw pixels. The idea is to try to simplify objects from daily life. They are kind of 8-bit and low-resolution. I did, for example, a series with cigarette packs, and I used Marlboros to make a print for "The Provocateurs" show.

How do you maintain your signature style when you move from the streets to a gallery setting?

I try to use new media for the gallery, but I realize that pixels and mosaics are mainly my signature.

Do you get frustrated when your pieces get removed from the streets? Does it depend on when or why?

Yes, for sure. It is always sad to lose a street piece, mainly when it has been destroyed by someone who tried to take it off to sell it on eBay!

Do you have any big projects like ART4SPACE coming up? What's next for Invader?

Oh yes, I have a very big amazing project coming this year, but it is a bit too early to speak about it. I have also been working for a while on a smartphone app, which has just been released. It is a free app called Flash Invaders. Stay tuned...

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