MARRAKESH — It is a 21st-century Parisian experience par excellence: You turn a cobblestone corner or exit some quaint square and come face-to-face with a small, tiled alien critter pasted on the wall of a Haussmann-era building. That is the work of Invader, the French-born street artist who claims to have been educated by alien professors at a tiling school on Mars, though he actually graduated from Paris' elite École des Beaux-Arts.
The trademark flying spaceships are a nod to the 1978 arcade game Space Invaders, where players must defeat rows of pixelated enemy aliens with a laser cannon. Recognizable by their old-school video game characters and square ceramic tiles, Invader's creations are everywhere in Paris, and have popped up in over 60 other cities, mostly in Europe. What originally began as a playful replication of the space monsters turned into pixelated versions of beer bottles, Snow White and even Luke Skywalker as the invasion movement gained popularity and a devoted following.
Now, the artist has debarked in North Africa for the first time, with Invaders showing up on walls in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh and the capital, Rabat. More are apparently to come. "I would love to come back one day," Invader told the French-language North African edition of HuffPost. "The landscape is very different from those of the big western cities and it is this diversity that pleases me."
Beyond the cute critters and secret identity as a self-proclaimed "Unidentified Free Artist" is a glaring message about the influence of technology on our everyday lives, consuming both our time and our minds. "In my own eyes, they are the perfect icons of our time, a time where digital technologies are the heartbeat of our world," Invader wrote on his website.
Unlike British-based street artist Banksy, whose graffiti style art is politically charged, Invader says he does not have any particular moral message to impart. "I am into artistic experimentation rather than political opposition," said Invader. "This project, I hope, will leave a print not only on the streets but also on the minds."
Since the debut of his critter invasion in 1998, Invader has turned his creations into a point-based game, similar to the video game. Each installed work has a unique score ranging from 10-100, giving each invaded city an individual ranking. Where will he land next? Only Invader and his team of aliens know, but as he likes to say, "Game is not Over!"
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