"This bull is a bull and this horse is a horse," Spanish-born painter Pablo Picasso once said of his iconic 1937 painting Guernica.
Eighty years later, the horrifying depiction of the Spanish Civil War bombing of a Basque town — history's first attack from the air on a civilian population — stands as one of the great explicitly political works of art. But back then, art critics had been eager to find interpretations for the sprawling expressionist work.
Picasso added, "If you give a meaning to certain things in my paintings it may be very true, but it is not my idea to give this meaning." Is Guernica a metaphor for the battle between the masculine and the feminine — perhaps a glimpse into the life of the artist? You decide, says the painter.
In present-day Paris, a great-grandchild of Picasso's Cubism has made its way to the walls of the capital: Invader's Rubickubism, a mode of expression in tune with our pixelated times. With 1279 pop-culture-themed mosaics (and still counting) across the city, Invader has become ubiquitous in Paris. His moniker, a nod to Space Invaders — the 1978 arcade video game whose purpose was, coincidentally, to defeat waves of threatening aliens. Danger still comes from above, indeed.
Invader, whose tiled critters have recently crawled their way from Paris onto the walls of Marrakesh, may not be as politically motivated as Picasso (or say, UK artist Banksy), but symbolism is still very much at work. His Star Wars and video games characters, though less tortured than Guernica's agonizing bull and horse, testify to the invasive presence of technology in modern society. "I am into artistic experimentation rather than political opposition," says Invader. "This project, I hope, will leave a print not only on the streets but also on the minds."
Sometimes a bull is just a bull, and sometimes a spaceship is more than a spaceship.