Recently spotted near Broadway and Houston on the NoHo/SoHo border:
That’s a very busy intersection, its very difficult to get a photograph let alone lay down tile in the concrete. I worked at this intersection for a little over a year working many late nights in the office. I can’t imagine how anyone could have done this.
The message reads:
HOUSE OF HADES
I MAKE + GLUE TILE
WITH THE BONES
OF DEAD JOURNALISTS
If this cryptic tile and cryptic construction looks familiar, you are probably familiar with the Toynbee tiles. In order to begin to get what the hell these House of Hades guys/gals/guy/gal are we must first look at the mysterious Toynbee tiles.
These tiles popped up on the East Coast seemingly overnight centering around Philadelphia. The message is usually a variation of:
IN KUBRICK’S 2001
ON PLANET JUPITER
This mish-mash of ideas does have some thread of logic, albeit twisted. There are three people to look at: Arnold J. Toynbee, Stanley Kubrick, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Arnold J. Toynbee was a British historian who presented history as a universal rhythm of rise and fall with reoccurring themes and allusions. He became a household name in the 1940’s as the world sought to deal with the new superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union. His ideas provided a kind of cushion, and familiar grounding to an unfamiliar situation. He was a little spiritual (in regards to the dead and such) looking at the role of Eastern and Western thought.
American Stanley Kubrick directed 2001: A Space Odyssey, a groundbreaking film that changed the way people thought about science fiction. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey the novel. As Kurbrick and Clarke bounced ideas off of each other they thought it only fitting that the movie says “Based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke” and the novel says “Based on the movie directed by Stanley Krubrick.” Kubrick approached Clarke about the idea of making a sci-fi flick about humans having a ’spiritual’ encounter with extraterrestrials. Kubrick had read Clarke’s fiction such as “The Sentinel“, Childhood’s End, and “Jupiter V” which directly references Toynbee. At the end of the novel/film the main character Dave Bowman is transformed after traveling to Jupiter into a spiritual being beyond his physical body by fantastic alien technology beyond our comprehension.
If one was incliend to a certain set of beliefs usually dubbed, oh crazy, they might think that Toynbee and Kubrick were on to something such as the dead can be revived on Jupiter.
There are numerous theories on who made these tiles. In more recent years many suspect its the work of copycats as whoever did these must be getting on in years as well as different artistic signatures as far away as Iraq. Though some presumed original and presumed tiles do pop up now and again.
My first thought when I saw the House of Hades tile is “oh no, someone’s ripping off Toynbee Tiles to promote a Michael Douglas film virally or something. Great.” However, it appears that House of Hades is a genuine homage by someone who seems to have a genuine belief that life will be resurrected on Jupiter.
Steve Weinek, a skilled photographer from Philadelphia, sings the praises for the House of Hades as the most skilled tilers around. In addition to showcasing some nice photography work, he has some great photo detective work on House of Hades, Toynbee and more.