Invading Rome:

I've spent a lot of time in foreign countries searching out street art by the artist Invader. By using the app Flash Invaders, created in part by him, I have successfully found and "flashed" 101 installations across six different cities scoring 4150 points. While I rank low when compared to many of his fans (I'm currently ranked #6518 in the world), I have successfully found his art in Rome, Barcelona, Paris, London, Los Angeles and Ravenna. This article is a continuation of my time spent in Rome where I found fifteen of his iconic mosaics.

Parts one and three can be found at the links below:
Invading Rome - Part 1 of 3 - Chasing Down Invader Street Art
Invading Rome - Part 3 of 3 - Chasing Down Invader Street Art

Get ready to walk:

On my second day out I walked eighteen miles. You read that correctly. That's twenty-nine kilometers. I somehow got it in my head that I didn't need no public transportation. I was on quite a fitness obsession at the time so I was constantly pushing myself harder, longer, and further in anything that could be remotely considered athletic. I eventually broke down and bought a three day public transportation pass. Do this! Seriously it was so convenient and it gets you anywhere you could possibly want to go. This coupled with an app on my phone I was able to figure out how to get anywhere. It did not, however, prevent the necessity to walk.

I made a slight error during my hunt, an error that I'm embarrassed to say I make very often. I didn't read the legend that was provided with the map. Different markers have different colors which signify if the artwork is still there or if it has gone missing. After walking endlessly from one location to the next and finding nothing I was starting to get frustrated. Was I really going to spend my five days in Rome walking to seventy-five different locations hoping there was an Invader at each? Probably. Luckily I didn't have to. I eventually got wise and realized there was a method to the madness.

The invasion of Rome had three different waves according to the Invader website, although I believe most, if not all, of them were placed in 2010. There are a few he did in 2015 but they were commissioned by the European Space Agency and were too far from the city for me to visit. They are listed as part of the Rome invasion but their location was a couple hours outside of the city. There are seventy-five recorded, including those at ESA, but my Google map only had about twenty or so listed as still active (in the immediate area). Of those only fifteen remained when I was there in May of 2017.


The above picture shows an all too common sight after arriving at a Google marker. On the peach colored wall you can see a blotchy white outline where an Invader used to sit. I've read many articles on why people remove them. With the notoriety Invader has garnered, some people remove his artwork hoping to get a souvenir or possibly put it up for sale. Others might take it down because they own the property or the building is being renovated. The dumbest reason I've come across but one that is still a possibility is that rival street artists feel like he's invading their turf. Well his name is Invader. Whatever happened to honor amongst thieves?

Unfortunately the app doesn't recognize missing pieces. Because it uses location services it knows you're in the right spot but it also uses image recognition. If it can't recognize the artwork, because it's no longer there, you're out of luck. I always try and take a picture of the plaster remains, hoping it will come through as a successfully flashed Invader, but all I get is a message that says "missed, try again!" A missing invader means those points are gone forever. Uncovering a faded outline is actually more satisfying than arriving at a location where nothing remains. It sucks looking for something that isn't there. You don't want to leave because you hope that it's there but eventually you come to terms with the fact that it's gone. A faded outline, at the very least, grants you permission to move on.


After many miles of nothing and wandering deep into the outskirts of Rome, I eventually found one in the most unassuming of spots. Near a gas station and across an intersection was a memorial of sorts, for who I'm not sure. Visibility of the piece, ROM_12, was limited due to the tendrils of a vine that covered it completely. It sat at the top of a brick wall that was just out of reach. I used a selfie stick in my bag to push the leaves aside. It took several attempts and many failed flashes before I scored my thirty points. The app had a hard time recognizing it with my unstable hand and an obstructed view but eventually I succeeded.

ROM_56 was on the edge of a shadier part of town. I kept the dull but hardened edge of my tripod in plain sight for all to see. I had to walk by some pretty dodgy looking characters to get there. I've found confidence to be the best characteristic in situations like this. Even if you don't feel confident, make sure you act like it. No one bothered me and right around the corner were some nicer looking folks. Initially I was looking for a different piece (I couldn't find it) and walked right by this one. Seems hard to do given it's size and neon orange color but I was preoccupied with my surroundings. As soon as I set my attention on it the thing jumped right out at me. Fifty points for the size, it's the largest one I was able to find.


ROM_43 was another one I wish I had my longer lens for. It's harder to see but you can still make it out. What I remember so clearly from Exit Through the Gift Shop is the scene where Mr. Brainwash is helping Invader ensure the mosaic he's placing is straight. Similarly to how you would hang a picture on a wall, Thierry Guetta is yelling from the ground, "Push that side up a bit, it's still crooked" or something to that effect. When I see pieces as small as ROM_43 it makes me think of that scene. It is properly aligned but the size is akin to a decal or sticker. I start to imagine how he placed it. I can see it now, a pair of arms sticking through the openings of the balustrade reaching down below trying to accurately place his insignia. It's a funny thought to me.


ROM_31 is an interesting one and something I honestly didn't notice until I was putting together this report. The eyes are different when comparing the photo in the app to the photo I took. My only guess is that the black has faded after so much time passing, with weather and whatnot. I don't know why this would be though. None of the other colors have faded. I'd question whether or not I took a photo of the same one I flashed but I'm quite confident I've made no mistake. The design is the same, the red and green are the same, the only difference is the eyes. I took a separate photo of every Invader I flashed, time is the only variable I can consider. I have no explanation of why this is but it's an observation I have not overlooked.

ROM_57 is one of my favorites because of its proximity to the Colosseum. Every day people walk by this monument of history and most are unaware of the artwork above them. They're not concerned with street art and why should they be? In front of them is one of the most iconic pieces of architecture ever conceived. Yet Invader managed to place his mosaic in plain sight next to one of the great wonders of the world. How cool is that? It's one of the reasons I love his work. I sit here and think how it's probably still there, a fly on the wall, observing the passage of time. This was one of the most satisfying to find and to photograph. Anyone who sees this picture can say, "Wow, what a cool picture of the Colosseum!" And I can reply with, "I wasn't taking a picture of the Colosseum." I find humor in that.

In closing:

My second day in Rome allowed for the discovery of several new pieces. As I stated before, in my opinion this was the best way to explore. I found myself in the weirdest places and then out of no where the Colosseum would pop up or I would find myself near old churches and buildings that I would have never seen otherwise. I found restaurants and alleyways and musicians and bridges and lens flares and markets and towers and the list goes on. I talked to locals who were curious about what I was doing and ate pizza and beer that was some of the best I've had. I would rather wander the streets in search of evasive street art than be an addition to the crowd. Don't get me wrong, I did all that tourist stuff too. None of it felt as authentic though as getting lost in the cobblestone streets of Rome.

The story is still not over though! I spent one more day seeking out the last five pieces to my collection. Two in particular took me over three hours to obtain and one of them ended up being a fake. If you've enjoyed this post or you're interested in "flashing" Invaders, be sure to check out the final post to my Invading Rome saga. This adventure will be one of many to come as I wander the globe in search of my high score.

Be sure to check out parts one and three at the links below:
Invading Rome - Part 1 of 3 - Chasing Down Invader Street Art
Invading Rome - Part 3 of 3 - Chasing Down Invader Street Art


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