“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?

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