The Toynbee tiles are something I find absolutely fascinating. I first became aware of them in 2009.Â Ever since then I have wanted to do more and more research. However, it is very hard to find out information, because quite frankly there isn’t a great deal. There is only speculation as to what they are, what they mean and who “may” have been the creator. There is no concrete answer.
The Toynbee Titles are cryptic messages found embedded in asphalt in various cities across the United States including Washington DC, Pittsburgh, New York City, Baltimore, Boston, and many more. Some have even shown up in South American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. To date, about 130 tiles have been discovered.
Somehow, someone is managing to embed these tiles into public roads- some of which are constantly busy. The messages are believed to be layers of linoleum and asphalt crack-filling compound and they are generally about the size of an American license plate. They are applied to concrete via the heat of the sun and the pressure of car tires, which will eventually wear away reveal their message. How they do this with out the public seeing is so intriguing. I find it so mysterious that no one knows the origin of these tiles or the identity of the artist. It’s so frustrating, knowing we may never know. The Toynbee tiles are the biggest guerrilla art movement of our time. It’s older than Banksy and has remained unsolved for nearly three decades. The Toynbee Tiles mystery thrives on its own, inspiring speculation and interpretation to this day. And who knows, this may have been the artist’s intention. I don’t think anyone is ever going to get to the bottom of it.
Little movements like this make me want to put up pieces of art secretly and hope that people wonder “where did this originate from”.