CINEMA: Local Punk’s Doc Explores The Enigma Of Toynbee Tiles, Takes Sundance By Storm Strange

INQUIRER: You’ve seen them, even if you don’t remember it. You’re crossing the street and something catches your eye, a flash of color amid the rush of feet. You wait for the light to change and the traffic to thin, and there it is: a rectangular shape embedded in the asphalt, with a message etched in silhouette:








Philadelphia is not the only city where the cryptic messages have appeared. They’ve turned up in New York, Boston, and Kansas City, Mo., and as far afield as Buenos Aires. But the Toynbee tiles, as they’ve become known by those who have spent years trying to unravel their mystery, are most numerous in the city, and secondary messages carved into the borders of some tiles make specific references to Philadelphia locations and public figures. Jon Foy, 31, who grew up in Willow Grove, came to the Toynbee tiles mystery relatively late. But in 2005, he was intrigued enough to drop out of film school in Texas and move to Philadelphia to make a documentary about the search for the person behind the tiles, which first began to attract notice in the early 1980s. It took five and a half years, during which Foy cleaned houses and was a subject in in medical studies to finance the film. MORE

REUETERS: Attempting to decipher the text, they assume that Toynbee refers to the 20th Century British comparative historian Arnold J. Toynbee and presumed references in his writings to the reanimation of the deceased. “Kubrick’s 2001” is taken as a reference to the 1968 science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick and co-written with novelist Arthur C. Clark. The film posits the next step in human evolution as an encounter with extraterrestrial life in the vicinity of Jupiter — perhaps an oblique reference to resurrecting the dead. The amateur sleuths begin their quest to unravel the conundrum with several tentative leads, beginning with a Philadelphia street address revealed on a tile installed in Santiago, Chile. They also find an exchange referencing Toynbee and Jupiter in a one-act David Mamet play, 4 A.M., about a radio host and his late-night mystery caller. A brief local newspaper article from the early 1980s mentions a Philadelphia organization dedicated to colonizing Jupiter, known as the “Minority Association,” which the investigators connect with the anonymous tiler. Plunging into this thicket of interlocking clues, Duerr and his cohorts unravel connections between the artist and the obscure Jupiter society, strange shortwave broadcasts and the conspiracy theory rantings in the “side texts” accompanying many of the tiles. MORE

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