“Resurrect Dead” Film Explores Mystery of Toynbee Tiles

Posted on: February 10th, 2011 at 6:49 am by

The mystery of who’s actually behind Toynbee Tiles has gripped many in the street art community for three decades. Since the early eighties, these cryptic “Resurrect Dead” branded tiles have been discovered across the east coast, as well as South America. And in recent years, there’s been a marked resurgence in the embeddable artwork across the Lower East Side.

[Spotted on the Bowery, Oct. 13]

On the surface, it might seem like just another story of rogue road vandalism. Not the case. The history behind the art and message is actually quite complex. So much so, that Toynbee Tiles were recently the subject of a Sundance Film Festival documentary entrant called Resurrect Dead. We attended a screening yesterday at Core Club in midtown, and completely ate it up.  Definitely a must-see.

Directed by first-timer Jon Foy, the film is a fascinating real-life “whodunnit,” ten years in the making. The narrative follows a scrappy detective squad of obsessive fanatics – Justin Duerr, Colin Smith, Steve Weinik – as they attempt to discover the phantom entity behind these cryptic tiles. Their Quixotic quest leads them through an obscure analog underworld, as it were, dominated by message boards, short-wave radio, and archived news clippings on microfiche.  We learn that Philadelphia is the birthplace of the movement, and allegedly remains home to the Toynbee Tiler.

Let’s just leave it at that. We won’t spoil the experience for you.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with Jon Foy. Our question was whether there were any copycats out there, since most of the tiles we’ve spotted in the neighborhood are House of Hades. His response was a definitive yes to copycats, but that their identities are unknown. Then one audience member blurted out that Adam Purple was behind some of the newer crop of plaques, which is unconfirmed. Anyway, Foy and crew are still shopping Resurrect Dead for proper distribution.

As a fitting postscript, there is a House of Hades tile embedded in the center of Park Avenue, mere paces from Core Club.  PR play?

Recent Stories

forever-stanton-november
ABC’s ‘Forever’ Continues Its Months-Long Filming Residency Today on the Lower East Side

The season-long residency of Forever continues today on the Lower East Side. This ABC production has been headquartered east of Essex Street (between Houston and Delancey) since July. It was around that time that the production transformed 154 Stanton Street – Smart Clothes Gallery – into a faux shop called “Abe’s Antiques.” Four months out, […]

7th-precinct
The 7th Precinct Now Has a Dedicated Twitter Account

For those of you interested in following the minutia of the 7th Precinct (or bashing them), today is your lucky day. The NYPD just sanctioned a new Twitter handle for our neighborhood cops. Profile picture of the new account is of the recently-appointed CO, Joseph Simonetti. Greetings from the #LES #LowerEastSide Looking forward to connecting! […]

125rivington-night
‘awindow’ Pop-Up Retail Lab Opening at 125 Rivington Street

Aside from plans last year to transform 125 Rivington into a bar called “The Carolinas,” the ground floor has seen naught but pop-up endeavors. In fact, the last such temporary shop was seven months ago, that of SR luxury backpacks. As of this week, though, it’s again all systems go. Roving creative house awindow edition […]

wd50-closing
WD-50 Countdown: Demolition Permits Filed for 7-Story Condo Tower on Clinton Street

WD-50 is slated to conclude its decade-long presence at 50 Clinton Street in just over a week (November 30). Demolition of the entire row of quaint commercial stock will transpire soon thereafter. Indeed, the former 1492 has already been boarded up with dismantling activities transpiring behind the plywood shroud. Demolition permits were issued earlier this […]

SantaCon, December 2011
Why It (Probably) Doesn’t Matter that SantaCon is without a Home

Bushwick put up a united front this week and did what the Lower East Side couldn’t. It essentially strongarmed SantaCon into canceling its plans to host the “charity” event in the Brooklyn enclave. Many of the bars reportedly refused to permit revelers with costume. amNewyork had the scoop on Wednesday, quoting organizers who claimed that […]