Spinning Poi—Tattoos of the Here and Now
By Suzi Conklin
Zan Moore spins poi instruments. Originating with the Maori people of New Zealand, poi instruments include “S” staffs, fire and pretty much anything that’s weighted and attached to a string or chain. As Zan spins, he moves in an elegant graceful dance that provides a balanced flow to the instruments whirling around him.
For two years, Zan roamed through Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Brazil. At first, he guided whitewater trips, made drums and sold them at markets. He juggled and thought a lot. “I wasn’t touring like a tourist. I was living and just happened to be traveling around as I did it,” he says. Street performances caught his attention, and he started playing around with poi. When it is a Kevlar wick on fire attached to a chain, it’s fire spinning. Into the journey, Zan’s brother, Noah, joined him, and the two began performing in the streets, spinning together. Eventually, they realized their time together was coming to an end, so they took all they’d learned and concentrated it into a company name and logo. The name was “The Instruments of the Now,” and the logo was turned into a tattoo.
Zan’s tattoo is on his back, Noah’s is over his heart. The got tattooed in a tattoo shop near the beach in Rio de Janero. Zan continued with Instruments of the Now, turning it into a business complete with marketing, a website, videos and more. Everything he does stems from his studies in mathematics and the personal philosophy he’s developed out of those studies and his life’s experiences. The second tattoo Zan designed is a direct result of this ability. The design he created shows layered circles and triangles in geometric symmetry. “Potent information was flowing into my life in 2008,” he explains. “My continued studies of metaphysics, sacred geometry, physics and subatomic physics were giving me a broader understanding of how the universe works.”
The vision of the design had come to him that year in the Pan Theo Genesis temples at Burning Man. Standing inside structures made from seven unity pods, Flower of Life matrices, crystals and symbols of life’s dualities, Zan absorbed the vibes, took them into his ever-ruminating mind and got the big “ah hah!” He knew what his tattoo was going to be.
In designing the image, Zan began with a center circle representing the seed of life. He then added six circles around it equaling seven circles representing the seven days of creation, or the genesis, concepts which show up in religions all over the world. Since, as Zan puts it, there’s “no empirical evidence that two dimensions exist,” each circle would be a sphere making eight total because one would be in front of the circle and one behind. The tattoo is designed so that everywhere you look you are looking into a center of an identical pattern. Connectedness is an important concept for Zan. He had the tattoo inked at The Tattoo Parlor in Eugene, Oregon, though neither he nor the owner of the shop knows who the artist was. Zan just remembers walking in with his design and having them call in the particular artist who could work the straight lines and perfect circles.
Just as Zan’s designs are one of a kind, so is each performance. “I didn’t want to imitate other spinners and reach some ceiling in what could be done, so I didn’t take lessons. I wanted to make it my own, see how deep I could go with it. With all of the focus on the “now,” Zan’s performances looks effortless and fun. When he’s not spinning poi, he’s performing contact juggling, the art of moving a sphere that appears to float over his body, yet never loses contact. It looks almost magnetic. Zan said that, with contact juggling, the first thousand hours of practice don’t count, catching a weighty sphere on the back on his hand as if it were a bubble.
When asked about himself as an instrument of the now, Zan replies that he wants to share with others what he has learned about living in the Here and Now, because of the profound influence it has had on his life. The metaphysical tattoo is on his upper arm deliberately to catch people’s attention. “I use it to lock in an important teaching in my life. It is a reminder but also a homing beacon. I wanted it somewhere that people would notice.” Sure, there are those who come up to him and remark, “That’s a cool image,” but then there are those who approach to engage in conversations about metaphysics and that, for Zan, is the great reward of having this tattoo. It is his instrument for human connection.