See You, Banksy. Hello, Invader

Invader, the Paris-based urban artist behind thousands of hand-made mosaics, is in New York for a residency -- or “invasion” -- of his own.Credit:

As Banksy's mega-hyped New York City "street residency" ends, works by another of the world's most famous street artists started appearing on the facades of buildings on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Invader, the Paris-based urban artist, we know was born in 1969 but otherwise remains anonymous despite the fact that he has posted thousands of handmade mosaics on walls and landmarks from Mombasa to Perth, is in town for a residency - he calls it an "invasion" - of his own.

Invader's work is immediately recognizable: brightly colored porcelain tiles arranged to create crude images of low-resolution early videogame characters and other pop-culture touchstones, from Snow White to the Pink Panther. But mostly he makes space invaders, faithfully recreating the enemies from the 1978 arcade classic.

Invader launched his first invasion in his hometown in 1998, and he has since expanded to dozens of cities around the world. Once he has invaded a town, he creates a detailed map of where all of his pieces are, which he then sells on his website.

In perhaps his boldest move, Invader embarked on a quest several years ago to launch one of his space invaders into outer space, and according to a short documentary that he is touring the world to support, he made that wild vision a reality last year via the use of a sophisticated weather balloon with a video camera that documented the flight.

The film, "Art4Space," had its New York premiere October 29, and it will screen in London on November 15. In an exclusive interview with Newsweek - conducted via email to protect his identity - he talks about his work, the state of street art and Banksy.

Invader's work around New York. Photo by Connor Sheets

NW: What does your work mean to you, and what do you hope to convey through your pieces?

INVADER: It means [having] thousands of people see and interact with your work for free instead of just a few who would pay to go to museums or galleries - where they are sometimes not even allowed to take pictures, where they are more passive.

NW: On the topic of showing in galleries, do you believe that it has become an essential part of being a street artist?

INVADER: Showing in galleries and invading the streets are two different projects, and it is a challenge to be as good in a gallery or museum as in the streets. For me it is more difficult - not physically though - to deal with gallery shows, as acting in the street is so obvious. All my life is dedicated to this project of space invasion, and all of this project has to take place in public spaces! I couldn't do without the streets.

NW: How much did videogames influence your life and your work?

INVADER: I grew up with the very first videogames and, of course, play videogames; but I also grew up with many other things which I didn't turn into art, so this is not the point. I chose videogames because they symbolize a turning point in our history: the massive access to computers and the related technologies. There is a "before" and an "after" and even if we can't say yet if it is positive or not, this is a big movement, a big change.

NW: Does New York City have a special draw for you as a street artist?

INVADER: New York is the mecca of art in general and street art in particular. This is my fifth invasion wave in the city, which I started invading in 1999 at the very start of my project "invasion of the world," but it is so huge and dense that I could come a hundred times without being satisfied. New York would need as many space invaders as Paris, which counts more than 1,000 of them.

NW: When do you leave New York?

INVADER: I don't say where or when I go, and I don't say when I leave!

NW: What do you hope people get out of seeing your film?

INVADER: As with any other movie, I would like them to [have a] good time watching it, be frightened and laugh, be interested. And believe it! This movie is a documentary, not a fiction; and it is about making dreams come true, about how you can do crazy things with just a few tricks, basic technologies, and lots of energy and perseverance.

NW: What do you think of Banksy?

INVADER: I think he proved he was a good artist, and did many good things for the street art; he made it noticed by a large public.

NW: How does the street art scene in Europe and other countries compare with New York and America?

INVADER: Globalization has some advantages: Street artists go everywhere and don't think that much in term of differences or frontiers.