A Media Virus by Bobby Campbell
(New strains every Thor's day
"SUBSTANCE IS INVERSELY PROPORTIONAL TO PONDERABILITY"
-Franklin Merrell Wolff
The Toynbee Tile media virus is a wonderful curiosity that I am
happy to propagate onward, upward, and spiraling out of control!
The virility of this cryptic memetic aggregate, interestingly enough, does
not spring from digital age machinations, this is no internet phenomena.
These messages have been intractably embedded in the concrete and asphalt hardware of cities all around the Americas for over 25 years.
My home city of Philadelphia, PA, USA is a focal point in the mystery, as there are such a great many of these plaques in our streets, and evidence suggests that the original creator was likely a native resident.
Do please allow this audio/visual presentation by The Vivian Girls Experience to shed some light on the situation:
I first learned of this very peculiar rigamarole via Justin Duer, a highly notable Philadelphia artist/musician. We were sharing display space at the Philly Zine Fest, when he was interviewed about the long awaited documentary on the matter, Resurrect Dead.
Here is Justin and Co. providing further exposition on a Philadelphia local news segment:
It wasn't until a couple years after overhearing Justin Duer's interview that I would actually become fascinated by the mystery myself.
In late November of 2007, upon catching a news story on the radio about the tiles, I began to poke around a bit on the internet for to enjoy further information on the subject. I had satisfied my curiosity w/ only just a few brief blurbs, when I inadvertently knocked over my copy of Joseph Campbell's "The Hero With A Thousand Faces." I picked up the book and but of course it had opened to a page wherein the word "Toynbee" shone out like some kinda clownish beacon.
"The hero has died as a modern man; but as eternal man - perfected, unspecific, universal man - he has been reborn. His second solemn task and deed therefore (as Toynbee declares and as all the mythologies of mankind indicate) is to return then to us, transfigured, and teach the lesson he has learned of life renewed."
"Well, sure, okay, fine!" I thought, I'll dig a little deeper then, and in so doing I turned up this video of a St. Louis local news segment, which features a man with a blue beard discussing Toynbee Tiles. And well, it just so happens that I know a fella w/ a blue beard, as do many of ye esteemed MLA alumni...
I promptly fired off an E-mail to our friend The Capt., who confirmed indeed and of course that it was he in the video.
2 days later I would find my first real life Toynbee Tile.
Several months later, en route to my first day of work at a Philadelphia media company, I would walk over a Toynbee Tile while transferring from train to bus.
Having eagerly reported for duty an hour early, I then went to enjoy a coffee at the Penrose Diner, and while reading my well worn edition of Marshall McLuhan's "Understanding Media", happened upon the following passages:
"In his Study of History, Toynbee notes a great many reversals of form and dynamic..."
"In the ancient world the intuitive awareness of break boundaries as points of reversal and of no return was embodied in the Greek idea of hubris, which Toynbee presents in his Study of History, under the head of "The Nemesis of Creativity" and "The Reversal of Roles."
And so it goes, the miscellaneous and disheveled happenstance of experience, where nothing happens for a reason, but everything can get put to a purpose.