Aladdin Sane Invader
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Why is the Aladdin Sane series so important?
Playfully colourful and vivacious, the series of four signed prints ‘Aladdin Sane’ (blue, yellow, pinky and orange) made in 2014 represents Invader’s tribute to popular music through its quotation of the iconic Rock and Pop singer David Bowie.
Having risen to fame in the 1990s, Invader occupies the podium in the Street Art scenery, to the point that Banksy included him in his documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop in 2010. Invader’s best-known pieces are admittedly the coloured tile mosaics ‘Space Invaders’, which are part of a large-scale worldwide project instantly recognisable across the globe. In the project, begun in 1998, Invader quite literally brings to life and into the real world the famous characters of the Taito Japanese video game, who now are part of collective imagery and nostalgically bring the viewer back to the beginnings of digital design and the distinctive space of the arcade. Through his mosaics, which work to physically recreate the digital process of pixelation and virtualisation of the image then glued to the city walls, Invader invades neuralgic points of densely-populated cities. In doing so, he not only stages a fun treasure-hunt for the viewer but also sheds light on the new forms of visibility and modes of visualising images that have emerged in response to the digital era.
Invader’s is thus a theorisation of the pixelation and virtualisation of the image as the defining contemporary way of experiencing images. Simultaneously, his works embed a critique of the alienation caused by different media, and the disembodiment of reality in favour of the virtual. To respond to this situation, Invader stages a game for the viewer, who, in attempting to uncover all the Space Invaders hidden in different cities across the globe, becomes more aware of the surrounding urban environment now marked by the artist.
Further attesting to his interest in popular imagery, the Aladdin Sane series pays homage to the indisputable father of Pop and Rock music and the ultimate icon of popular imagery, David Bowie, whilst retaining Invader’s distinctive pixelated signature mark. Both in their title and through the representation of the blue and red lighting bolt on characters’ faces, the prints instantly index and point to Bowie’s sixth and unarguably most famous album, Aladdin Sane. The album cover, shot by Brian Duffy, not only contributed to Bowie’s then rising fame but unquestionably placed the artist within the collective popular memory, to the point that it is now not only the most easily-recognisable image of Bowie but has also been defined as the “Mona Lisa” of album covers.
Invader’s engagement with David Bowie is at play also in the artist’s choice of the title for his project, Space Invader, which at once refers to the famous video game but simultaneously quotes one of the lyrics of Bowie’s Moonage Daydream, where the singer famously asserts “I am a space invader”. After all, it could be said that the two artists share their common interest in outer space, as evidenced by Invader’s Art4Space and SpaceOne prints.
Thus, in the prints, Invader exhibits his engagement with popular culture and pays a tribute to Bowie through the reinterpretation and reconstruction of the singer’s portrait, turning him into one of his signature Space Invader-like characters.
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