Winding down the Californian coast this weekend piqued a peculiar anxiety in me, the genesis of which I could not immediately place. The usual culprits (craggy coastal cliffs, the great, gaping maw of the midnight sea), were not the source, nor was the Contessa’s drowsy helming of the wheel. When she made me aware that I was nervously tapping dashboard as if transcribing War and Peace on a telegraph, the answer finally came to me. The illuminated oil rigs lurking off the Santa Barbara coast resembled the blocky, pixelated adversaries of the ancient arcade game Space Invaders and no matter how rapidly I tapped the phantom “fire” button on the dash, I could not smote them. Not quite ‘Nam, I know, but traumatic nevertheless.
The digital nemeses frequently appear in street art given their geometric form, which aptly lends itself to stencils and tile mosaics (Sonoma Valley Sun photog Joe Lemas recently spotted a tiled invader in Paris). Many of these representations are the result of a loosely organized guerilla art movement that has found the invaders depicted the world over by a contingent of co-conspirators.
Predictably, guerilla marketing campaigns have hijacked this approach featuring similar creatures. Sam Ewen, founder and CEO of ad firm Interference, Inc., garnered the wrath of Homeland Security when his team planted objects d’art inspired by the Mooninites, two-dimensional alien villains from the Cartoon Network show Aqua Teen Hunger Force that owe a genetic debt to Space Invaders). Meant to inspire viral cell-phone photos and blog posts, the Mooninites’ blinking electronic circuit boards instead caused post-9/11 Bostonians to believe they were bombs. Authorities were outraged – at least one congressman pilloried Ewen in the press and the Boston police commissioner described the campaign as “unconscionable.” You know, sort of like oil rigs marring the California coastline.
Play Space Invaders here.