“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

cow-theater-closing
The Idea Distillery will ‘Give Curiosity a Home’ at Former COW Theater on Clinton Street

Where two experimental theaters failed in a basement on Clinton Street, a new “home for curiosity” will soon take hold. Following in the footsteps of the COW Theater and Judith Malina’s legendary Living Theater before it. When we last revisited 21 Clinton Street, the enormous subterranean space was being peddled for $11,000 per month and key […]

71orchard-bing-2
Jianbing Newcomer ‘Bing Kitchen’ on Orchard Street Sidelined Due to ‘Water Damage’

Bing Kitchen is off to a rocky start on Orchard Street. The snack shop newcomer, which specializes in the Chinese street-cart staple “Jianbing,” has been closed for the last week due to ambiguous “water damage” on-premise. That much is made clear via handwritten sign on the front door. While the “tomorrow” timeline was crossed out, ownership […]

vacant-ny-2
Mapping Vacant Stores to Show How ‘High Rent Blight’ is Killing the City

Warehousing. High rent blight. Store for rent. Call it what you want, but it’s a big problem in a city that so eagerly tosses its working class, mom-and-pop establishments into the proverbial gutter, in favor of high-paying corporate chains. It’s something that the Lower East Side, but the city at large, grapples with to a […]

189orchard-street
Basement Heist on Orchard Street Yields $20K in Loot for Suspected Burglars

This heist is straight out of the movies. Earlier this month, two burglars broke through a basement wall on Orchard Street to steal $20,000 from a local real estate company. On August 18, the brazen crooks snipped the cellar padlock of a neighboring business at 4pm in order to gain access to the basement, police […]

reed-space-farewell-2
‘Reed Space’ Calls it Quits After 15 Years on Orchard Street, but Seeks New Digs

Reed Space, one of the longest running tastemakers on the Lower East Side, is packing up the store for good after fifteen years on the block. Its last day at 151 Orchard Street is September 30, promising a nebulous “reset” in the near future. Leasing sign and announcement to fan faithful all but confirm the […]