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Something fun from Studio 360: the mystery of the Toynbee tiles.

“For more than two decades, an unknown artist has been leaving a message in the streets of Philadelphia. The message is has been cut by hand into a linoleum tile, and pressed into the asphalt by the weight of passing cars. There are dozens of these around the city; old ones wear away, and new ones appear. The message is the same:

TOYNBEE IDEA
IN Kubrick’s 2001
RESURRECT DEAD
ON PLANET JUPITER

“The Toynbee tiles, as they’re called, have become a thing in Philly — you can even buy a t-shirt (the tiler isn’t getting royalties). For artists, the cryptic message inspires far-out forms of creativity, but perhaps nothing as ambitious as the ten-minute work by the rapper and ‘bedroom composer’ Raj Haldar, who performs as Lushlife.

“The work is in four parts, one for each line of the tiles’ message. By the end, the ‘Toynbee Suite’ has left behind anything resembling hip-hop, going out on a two-minute clarinet solo.

“But what exactly is the Toynbee message? Alfred Toynbee was a historian and philosopher of the 20th century, known for the 12-volume A Study of History. …

“A documentary film speculated that the tiler remained unseen by dropping the tiles from a car with cut-out floorboards.”

More on the mystery here, where you also can listen to the rapper’s tile-inspired music and check out a map showing where Toynbee tiles are located around Philadelphia.

Photo: Kimberly Blessing/flickr
A Toynbee Tile at 9th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, Pa.

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