ordinary affects.

Sometimes you have to pause to catch up with where you already are. – Kathleen Stewart ‘Ordinary Affects’.

The more I think about it, the more I see the world is composed of lines. Everything has its own geography. People too, and bodies. A class of art students can construct you in two minutes, broad strokes of pastel, a rudimentary outline, a few curved and straight lines, somehow capturing your own specific essence. We note the lines of those we observe more closely. We remember the shape of a face, the angles in a foot, creases and dimples, the line of a nose. Lines are what we live by, a myriad of lines from which we select from, or are forced down, or resist. The lines we take and create elaborate a trajectory, they make us up. Like the lines of a hand, they are changeable, fluid, fleshy and living.

Lines can tie us or liberate us, depending. Lines are our lineage. Where do you come from? To be attached to a long line, a family tree that reaches deep, an intense cross-section is to be well drawn out. Not only an outline but a figure fully coloured in. Sometimes we might find ourselves at the end of the line; all antecedents have died out. The line is full of omissions, gaps, and disparity. The self is imbalanced, but light and always shifting. In yoga practice lineage is of utmost significance. Perhaps that’s why we cling to it so, with our blurry outlines; lineage will give us form. But the chatter confuses lineage with authenticity, and oh how tiresome it is. Which is the ‘real’ Ashtanga? Have we not learnt by now the search for origins should not be confused with truthfulness. The origins of a thing does not dictate its form; no living thing remains in a single state but mutates, transforms, grows; it becomes. Over and over. New lines added, taken away, extended, cut short.

The line of sirsasana wavers again. We train ourselves to straighten that which desires to bend and to bend that which desires to be straight. The bending, the folding in two, is my comfort zone, an endurable zone to take hold, to breathe and to think. The fold is the protective zone in which to confront the line, to cross the line, to protect ourselves as we venture outside the familiar. The straight lines are the powerful surge, controlling, and self-assured. Trust yourself they say. The fold says, trust me.

Practice shows me over and again that where I already am is always slightly outside of my conscious awareness. The practice allows the register of all the ordinary affects we collect on our skin in lines, grooves, wear and bruising. It’s only when we pause long enough do we experience all this sensory debris. It is only inside this fold can we see how the cracks have formed. Few things point a way for life through the cracks, an ashtanga practice is one, art another. And with both it is all about alignment, being in line, not too far over the line or too fearful of it; it is a daily confrontation of living on the line.

Affect points to the something not quite already given and yet somehow still happening. It’s being cast into the space of liminality and losing the ability to navigate. It’s desperate attempts to negotiate the space with no signs, or signs too big they are blinding. It’s the encounter, the between-two, the something that lies beyond and outside. It’s where the lines refigure and collide. It’s the suspension of a hopeful love and a waiting scattered with happenings that form into events, and moments that hit you before you have chance to dodge.


Kathleen Stewart, ‘Ordinary Affects’, (2007). Gilles Deleuze, ‘Negotiations’.


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