Here's a Toynbee tile I never noticed before, outside a Cosi restaurant I walk by a lot.
The latest spate of tiles I've found is pretty threatening, and this one is clearer than most. I think this is a different tilemaker from whoever made the other threatening ones. This one has hyphenation that I haven't seen on the others.
Here's a Flickr stream of other Philadelphia Toynbee tiles (the pictures aren't mine).
Found 3 Toynbee Tiles in one crosswalk on the way to City Hall! Two of them feature vague threats to other Toynbee Tile makers... Such is the life of a "hellion", I suppose.
Most tiles I've seen or heard of do include something like "Movie" and "2001" pretty regularly, so when I first moved here I thought they were a viral ad campaign for a re-make of "2001: A Space Odyssey".
This one was at the start of the crosswalk, nearest Market Street.
LAY TILE ALONE [AS?] HELLIONS
UP [EN?] [M?] [Y?]
AND GIVE YOU [ASS?]
This one was in the middle of the crosswalk, as you can see from the lines painted over it. I'm sure by this time you can fill in the blanks mostly:
And finally, at the end of the crosswalk, nearest City Hall.
RAISE DEAD [?]
YOU MUST LAY TILE ALONE AS HELLIONS
Found 7/28/06, in crosswalk from Market Street East to City Hall.
For the next couple of days, Found on the Ground will feature the wonderful things that are permanent fixtures on the ground of Philadelphia.
I was procrastinating about posting Toynbee Tiles. But since Matt O'Donnell over at Ch. 6 scooped me earlier this week, I might as well just do it.
They are a mild form of culture jamming, which I don't usually include here. Thrill of discovery is simply not present for me in sticker art, graffitti or adbusting/subvertising, although many beautiful examples of all of these flourish in Philadelphia.
"The "toynbee" referred to in the text is almost certainly Arnold J. Toynbee, a famous historian. "Kubrick's 2001" certainly refers to filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, co-writer and director of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
A possible interpretation is that the Toynbee reference comes from the science fiction writer Ray Bradbury's short story "The Toynbee Convector", which alludes to Toynbee's idea that in order to survive, humankind must always rush to meet the future, i.e. believe in a better world, and must always aim far beyond what is practically possible, in order to reach something barely within reach. Thus the message might be that humanity ought to strive to colonize Jupiter— as in Kubrick's work — or something greater, to survive."
Culture jamming is advertising as shrill as any. But to me, Toynbee Tiles are different. You learn to screen out "BUSH" stickers slapped at the bottom of stop signs, and Che's face spray-stenciled onto newspaper boxes, but most people will walk right over a Toynbee and truly never see it.
The plastic tiles are carved with the message, covered with tar paper, and adhered to the street when no one is watching. The heat and pressure of the cars driving over slowly wears away the tar paper to reveal the message, which means almost nothing. The cars sink the tiles deep into the pavement. In this way, they become part of the city's body, while other culture jams are like a temporary tattoo.