Strangeness is afoot. Most people don’t notice the hundreds of cryptic tiled messages about resurrecting the dead that have been appearing in city streets over the past three decades. But Justin Duerr does. For years, finding an answer to this long-standing urban mystery has been his obsession. He has been collecting clues that the tiler has embedded in the streets of major cities across the U.S. and South America. But as Justin starts piecing together key events of the past he finds a story that is more surreal than he imagined, and one that hits disturbingly close to home.
When we started our research, we had no idea where it would lead us. Where it took us was to a person who didn’t want to talk. I think TTT probably does speak to some people about his work, but didn’t feel comfortable with the forum that we offered. No matter how well intentioned we believed ourselves to be, showing up at his door with a camera wasn’t the soundest path for establishing trust.
When the film got into Sundance, and saw wider distribution than any of us ever imagined, we became extremely uncomfortable with shining a light on a person who by our best guess, didn’t want the attention. With that said, we went ahead with the movie. You can judge us for what we decided to do.
One other note. This site refers to The Toynbee Tiler with the acronym TTT. I’m leaving out his name by choice. If you need to know, it’s easy enough to find. I’m also leaving out biographical details that I consider irrelevant, or other descriptions and information that has no relationship to his work. He’s never spoken directly to me or anyone we know about the tiles. The information on this site is gathered through second hand accounts, first hand documents and inference based on decades of communication through the tiles. Where there is speculation, I try to acknowledge it. Whatever the reason for his anonymity, I’ll do my best to respect the boundaries defined by the negative space of his silence.
Here’s what I can say.
TTT is an anonymous Philadelphia born artist. One uncle was a politically connected funeral director, another relative was the inventor of instant replay. Other close family includes an artist, mechanic, even the owner of a tile store. He was born in the 1950’s and grew up somewhere in this creative mix. We know through documents, and acquaintances that he was a fan of science fiction. He also had skills in car modifications, including converting Fiat 128 sedans into pickups, and installing vinyl lettering and artwork on commercial vehicles.
And that’s about all I have to say on this page. If you’re still not satisfied, there are biographical tidbits are spread throughout the pages of this site. You’re invited to go exploring.