“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

7-Story Matzo Factory Condos Top Out on Rivington Street

The Streit’s name hasn’t held court on the Lower East Side since demolition of 148-154 Rivington Street commenced in the summer of 2016. Now, in its place, teaser signage for the upper crust newcomer which just topped out last week. The token signal of apex – an American flag – was planted atop the seven-story […]

Homeless Man Found Dead this Weekend in Parked Van on Delancey Street

A homeless man was found dead on Saturday afternoon in a parked van on eastern Delancey Street. Police sources tell us that the owner of the van had allowed the homeless man to sleep in the vehicle, which was parked at the southeast corner of Pitt and Delancey Streets. (Like in the movie With Honors.) […]

100 Norfolk Penthouse Sells for Record Setting $6.73M

The cantilevered box of condos at 100 Norfolk Street debuted late last year, and became an instant eyesore, following in the grand tradition of Blue just across the street. Now, word is circulating that its crown jewel penthouse just closed for an eye-popping $6.73 million. The real estate PR machine is calling this transaction the […]

Little Italy Church Rectory Hits the Market as $14M Development Site

The dying carcass of Little Italy continues to get picked apart. Mere days after a devastating fire knocked out Angelo’s on Mulberry Street comes word that the Most Precious Blood Church is selling its rectory. (The church itself is on Baxter Street.) The fifty-foot-wide property in question, located at 109 Mulberry Street, currently houses the […]

Teen Chef Flynn McGarry Opens his ‘Gem’ on Forsyth Street

He’s nineteen-years-old and has the food industry smitten. Teen chef prodigy Flynn McGarry this week opened a new Lower East Side restaurant on Forsyth Street called Gem. It’s a dining concept with split personality, offering both a coffee shop vibe (like it’s predecessor Cafe Henrie) and place for deep-pocketed tasting menu seekers. The Living Room, […]