Flash Space Invaders: Expand Your Paris Exploration

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Flash Space Invaders: Expand Your Paris Exploration
For years, near a favorite hotel bar on Paris’s Rue Dauphine, I noticed a tile mosaic of Star Wars characters Chewbacca and C-3PO high on the side of a building. Chewbacca’s arms are raised upward as if celebrating a success while C-3PO looks on arms akimbo. I learned to enjoy the duo even more when I discovered that not only was the street art by a French artist known as Invader, but proved it by using the artist’s app Flash Invaders. I took a picture (called a “flash”) of the mosaic, the app determined it was authentic and I earned my first 100 points. I recently spent a couple of weeks in Paris finding Invader’s artwork, in which time I also found a new way to look at and explore the city. By searching for Invaders, I better appreciated the beauty of Paris’s buildings, their varied architecture, angles, corners and zig-zag construction between sites that left sides of buildings open to hosting the work of many street/urban artists and graffitists. In the search, I became more observant of the city and discovered hidden corners along my usual paths, walked a few new streets and expanded my Paris experience. By really looking at a neighborhood, I became more aware of its personality and spirit while finding Invader’s art. An Invader on the wall above a tapas bar © Martha Sessums I respect and like graffiti, even the tags on trains and autoroute barriers, because graffiti artists are just saying, “I’m here.” Modern street art seems to have overtaken the amount of tags in cities and given all street artwork more respect. Today, Paris is more tolerant and the tourism office includes tours of street art as ways to explore the city plus there are many independent street art tour guides. But using the Invader app makes finding his tile mosaics in Paris an individual act that brings the city closer to each player and takes them beyond tourist spots. Launched in 2014, the Flash Invaders app, free in the Apple App Store, is easy to use and was very popular during the pandemic lockdown in Paris. Here’s how it works: find what looks to be an Invader, flash as if taking a picture and the app reads the details from the art and its location to confirm the art is a real Invader. If so, it adds it to your gallery and assigns points. If it’s not an Invader, it says so with a nice sense of humor. My misses have resulted in messages like “Missed. ZZZZZ!” or “Missed. Did you think it would be that easy?” If I forgot I had flashed the street art before, the witty app message is: “Already flashed, Tired today?” “It’s fun to walk around and look for (Invader art), it’s a treasure hunt,” said Hélène, a 9-year-old Parisian and Invader fan. “I like the tiles he uses. I also like looking with them with my friends. I have more invaders than my friend Sasha.” Flash Invaders app © Martha Sessums
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Lead photo credit : Martha's Flash Invaders Gallery © Martha Sessums

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Intrigued by France since her first stroll along the Seine, Martha and her husband often travel to Paris to explore the city and beyond. She lives part-time on the Île de la Cité and part-time in the San Francisco Bay Area, delighting in its strong Francophone and French culture community. She was a high-tech public relations executive and currently runs a non-profit continuing education organization. She also works as the San Francisco ambassador for France Today magazine.