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The "Human Spirograph" Uses His Whole Body To Make Huge, Swirling Art [Video]

Tony Orrico's drawings are part scientific visualization, part performance art.

The "Human Spirograph" Uses His Whole Body To Make Huge, Swirling Art [Video]

Tony Orrico uses a technique to generate his drawings that sounds inspired by Donald Rumsfeld's torture playbook: He kneels, lays, or suspends himself over a giant canvas, puts a writing implement in each hand, and starts rhythmically waving his arms back and forth for hours without stopping. Maybe that's why our friend Maria Popova calls him "the human spirograph": Orrico's machinelike process would probably put any other artist in the hospital.

I actually asked Orrico (who says he is "interested in elements of mental focus, somatics, efficiency and exhaustion") whether he's ever injured himself during one of his drawing performances. "Not yet," he tells Co.Design. "I do have some recovery after each of these works, but my tolerance is always increasing and I find that invigorating. I never intend to injure my body but rather tinker with tolerance levels and escape into will and the sensation of presence." In other words, don't try this at home.

But that might be hard, given how simple and spartan Orrico's work is: you see it and think, maybe I do want to try that! By using his own body in different meditation-like poses and stances, Orrico can create images that seem to transcend the human frailties of their creator and reach towards geometry and physics — kind of like the DrawingMachine we wrote about last month, but less sterile and mechanical. "My favorite art is somewhat accidental," Orrico explains, "and overwhelmingly concise."



Orrico's most ambitious work (which he hasn't performed publicly yet), "Penwald: 8: 12 by 12," takes seven hours of continuous rhythmic motion while kneeling to produce. "There are 144 knee circles encompassed by 12 large circles, 60 strikes of pendular motion per circle," he explains. He designs each pattern as a way to "challenge brain and motor skill dominance" with "a sensitivity to breath and friction." Just watching his metronomic motion is a hypnotic kind of art experience in itself. But the final products — huge, enigmatic, filled with natural pattern and also a human touch — are truly stunning. Let's hope he has a good medical insurance plan, so he can keep working through the arthritis that's surely in his future.

[Top image by Michael Hart; bottom two by Peter Cox]