Sitemap Contact Home Instagram
Katrina Repka


A Point in Time: Headstand

The Handstand is an athlete’s pose arrived at by physical impetus and strength, and something of a tumbler’s sideshow, but its cousin, the Headstand, is a more elegant, enigmatic construction that reveals itself through controlled movement. The mystery and elegance of Headstand brings to my mind the Egyptian obelisk, a tall, tapering, four-sided stone pillar culminating in a point. In Ancient Egypt, the obelisk was used as statuary before a temple pylon (gateway) and also as a memorial to a king; it symbolized the sun god Ra, the most powerful of all the ancient Egyptian gods, and was also said to represent a petrified ray of the sun. (What an astonishing concept.) At the top of the obelisk sits the same structure that we see in colossal form in the pyramids. The American 20th Century artist, Barnett Newman, made use of both the obelisk and the pyramid in his monumental sculpture, Broken Obelisk (1963). Here we have an inverted obelisk and a pyramid touching points, a delicate and at the same time shattering conjunction (as suggested by the broken base of the obelisk, shorn off by the collision). There is something so futuristic about Newman’s obelisk/pyramid, and yet so ancient. It is almost as if time itself had been compressed between those two points and held there in stasis.

Which brings me back to Headstand . As we extend our legs to full length, our head supported on the floor by the forearms, we settle into the pose and become still. It is now that we seem to leave time behind. Upside down, there is a feeling of emptiness all around, as if the everyday objects that surround us and contain us have disappeared, and we are suspended in space and time. It is the equivalent of being in between the tip of the obelisk and the tip of the pyramid in Broken Obelisk.

Barnett Newman once said that his obelisk was concerned with life, and that he hoped he had transformed its tragic content into a glimpse of the sublime. We cannot be sure what he meant by the phrase “tragic content,” but I have a feeling he was alluding to the shortness of our lives in comparison with the longevity of the obelisk, which has survived thousands of years. But in Headstand we also most certainly receive “a glimpse of the sublime,” because, for the time that we are able to hold the pose, we are not subject to the governing laws of nature. We stand, upside down, at a point in time that is also outside time.

To reacquaint yourself with the steps to a perfect Headstand, please go here.