Saint Christopher

‘Sometimes it is impossible to say why and how a work of art achieves its affect. I can stand in front of a painting and become filled with emotions and thoughts, evidently transmitted by the painting, and yet it is impossible to trace those emotions and thoughts back to it and say, for example, that the sorrow came from the colours, or that the longing came from the brushstrokes, or that the sudden insight that life will end lay in the motif.’ (Knausagaard 2019, 1)

I kick off my shoes and climb into the public fountain at Nasjonaltheatret in central Oslo. Beyond the edge of the fountain, bodies fall gently to paving stones in a beam that extends into the public square. My socks and leggings saturate with water as I step around activists lying face up, eyes closed in a performance of death. I curve my back under the arcs of spray as water moves up my thighs, my clothes a facile wick, become heavy. I use my body as a shield to protect my camera and try to capture the sorrow of this moment. Three activists, all women, lie fixed in a state between floating and submersion. In the water, flowers float close to their faces and outstretched arms. A laminated sign with the Extinction Rebellion logo rests just below the surface skin of rippled water and bears the Norwegian text Av kjærleik til jorda –  Of love for the Earth.