I travelled from Oslo to London (and back) by train, beginning Friday 13 September 2019. The journey was an academic, artistic, and activist performance. The purpose was originally to explore the climate activism of Extinction in Rebellion in London in the buildup to the International Rebellion of October 7.
I was only supposed to be gone a week or so.
I was gone a full month, taking me some unexpected places and resulting in several thousand photographs taken as part of my visual urban ethnography of climate activism. My journey ended Sunday 13 October 2019.
In London, I joined Extinction Rebellion’s funeral procession, the finale of a number of actions for London Fashion Week. I took non-violent direct action training in Southwark, attended the Heading for Extinction lecture in Lewisham. I dérived around North London.
In Dover, I attended a blockade of the port (and even got a shout-out in The Guardian)
From London, I travelled to the Netherlands. I attended the Heading for Extinction lecture in Amsterdam, did well-being training in Utrecht. In Den Haag, I participated in the action briefing for the International Rebellion planned for Amsterdam.
I then found myself in the action in Berlin, where I joined up with rebels from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark who also travelled by land for the International Rebellion.
My fieldnotes include daily live tweets and threads from twitter, or my #twitternotes, and are spontaneous field observations tweeted live from the field with photographs taken on my mobile phone.
I am presently working on transforming my longer fieldnotes into some new writing. I will also be making a short film which will be shown in the virtual session ‘Voices from the field — Research on the climate crisis’ at the 2020 American Association of Geographers annual meeting. I have also discussed this performance in a number of talks, which are listed here. I hope to share some of my extensive photography from this fieldwork in future.
In the following post, you will find a brief prose introduction to this fieldwork trip, which gives some background on the trip’s motivations. This is followed by 31 days of fieldnotes presented in chronological order. You can skip head by following the links below, if you prefer.
Day 1. Oslo to Malmö by train
Day 2: Retracing steps in Malmö and Lund
Day 3: Malmö to Hamburg by train, bus, train, ferry, train
Day 4: Hamburg to London by train
Day 5: Extinction Rebellion and London Fashion Week
Day 6: Writing day in North London
Day 7: Architecture of emergency at the Barbican
Day 8: Global Climate Strike in London
Day 9: Blockade of Dover Port by Extinction Rebellion
Day 10. Rest day in South London
Day 11. Non-violent direct action training with Extinction Rebellion Southwark
Day 12. Writing day in South London
Day 13. Somerset House and returning to Wood Green
Day 14. Heading for Extinction in Lewisham
Day 15. North London dérive
Day 16. London to Den Haag by train
Day 17. Rest day in Den Haag
Day 18. Preparing for the International Rebellion in Amsterdam
Day 19. Morning reflections in Den Haag, Well-being training with Extinction Rebellion in Utrecht
Day 20. Reflections and regenerative culture in Den Haag
Day 21. Writing day in Den Haag
Day 22. Self care and horror films in Den Haag
Day 23. Extinction Rebellion action briefing in Den Haag
Day 24. Den Haag to Amsterdam to Hannover to Berlin, evening at the Klimacamp
Day 25. Berlinblockierien: Following the Red Rebels from Potsdamer Platz to Siegessäule
Day 26. Berlinblockieren: A day at the Siegessäule blockade
Day 27. Berlinblockieren: Evening under the bridge at the Jannowitzbrücke blockade
Day 28. Berlinblockieren: Marschallbrücke, Klimacamp, swarming at Natural History Museum
Day 29. Berlin to Hamburg to Copenhagen to Malmö
Day 30. Last day, writing day in Malmö
Day 31. Homeward bound
‘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.
These #twitternotes were originally posted 13 September 2019 on Day 1 of fieldwork, travelling from Oslo to London. These tweets describe my journey from Oslo to Malmö, the first leg of my train journey to London. The thread can also be accessed on twitter.
3/ Last time I was at #OsloS was for an #ExtinctionRebellion die-in back in the spring. Now I am waiting for my first train. First stop Gøteborg, Sweden. 3hr49m. My luggage has acquired a sticker, it seems. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
4/ I get dreadful motion sickness but am going to try and do a bit of work on the train to #Gøteborg. I removed two revise and resubmits from my luggage as I want to focus on #fieldwork but have a very overdue book review that I must finish. Goodbye Oslo fjord. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
5/ Have made it to Sweden. Heia Sverige! Greetings from Gøteborg. Had enough time to quickly peruse the train station bookshop and pass by the bakery to pick up a Swedish vaniljebolle (like a cinnamon bun but with vanilla). Onward to Malmö. High speed train 2h18m. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
6/ In case you were wondering about the #vaniljebolle. I forgot my reusable coffee cup unfortunately but will pick one up along the way.
7/ People travel long distances by train all the time, especially in Europe. And I fully acknowledge that it’s perhaps not so unique to be travelling by train from Oslo to London. But, that’s 6 days of travel time + overnight stays … #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
8/ Travelling for work in this way is certainly not the norm though. Imagine travelling 6+ days for a 2 day conference!? And that’s just to go somewhere ‘close’. The planning isn’t simple, it’s far more expensive, it can be very inconvenient, it takes time, etc … #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
9/ It’s the time aspect that I suspect is most challenging. Perhaps flying less should not be wound up so much in shame but about travelling with more intent. So that when we do travel, it’s meaningful and those 6 or so days are a gift of time rather than a loss. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
10/ Just pulled into Lund train station. Oh my heart! I lived here 11 years ago (studied @IIIEElund). So much nostalgia. So many beautiful memories. Am staying two nights in Malmö en route to London by train for this reason, to have a wander, to softly retrace some steps.
11/ Heisan from Malmö. Forgot just how much I love Sweden. Day 1 of travel from Oslo to London by train complete. Nearly 21:00 and I’m just about ready for bed. My accomodation choices are a bit of a bobo #bourgeoisboheme mix. In Malmö, a pretty decent hostel. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
These #twitternotes were originally posted 14 September 2019 on Day 2 of fieldwork, travelling from Oslo to London. These tweets describe my rest day in Malmö and Lund. The thread can also be accessed on twitter.
1/ Today is a rest day in Malmö/Lund on my from Oslo to London by train. Making a concerted effort to rest and retreat from the screen today. Feeling surprisingly chill. Here’s a trace of the Nordic rebellion in Malmö that I stumbled upon on my way to breakfast. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
These #twitternotes were originally posted 15 September 2019 on Day 3 of fieldwork, travelling from Oslo to London. These tweets describe my travel from Malmö to Hamburg. The thread can also be accessed on twitter.
1/ Day 3. Oslo to London by train. I wanted to write something about the austere spaces of anonymous hotel rooms and evangelical Lutheran churches. But it’s early and I haven’t had a coffee yet. Hamburg bound today. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
2/ On way to Malmö Triangeln station and I have just passed a pile of discarded @ExtinctionR_SV #ExtinctionRebellion banners. This is quite different to the Norwegian care for handpainted political banners and clean up after actions. This makes me a bit sad to see. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
3/ And we’re off! Little yellow suitcase is not so pleased with its belly full of thrift shop red satin (more on that later). Just crossing the Øresund bridge, sea windmills in the distance. First stop København then two more trains to Hamburg. 0h35min. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN https://t.co/AMlcRAY6Hz
4/ Ceci n’est pas un train. It’s a togbus! Replacement trainbus to Rødby Færge where I will change to a train that will then board a ferry onward to Hamburg. Not great on buses so I will listen to music and try for a snooze. 2h15min. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
5/ My one fear of train travel is being stranded in a place like Rødby Færge. The sea is close. There’s salt and a chill in the air, northern sea smell. Somewhere between the North Sea and Baltic Sea, a train will soon arrive to take us from Denmark into Germany. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
6/ I believe I just overheard someone saying that this station is the most depressing place they’ve been since Baghdad. That can’t be right. #RødbyFærge
7/ Train to Hamburg has boarded a ferry. Am now sitting on deck ‘enjoying’ the fresh air and view, doing my best not to get sea sick/swept out to sea. Am starting to understand Nordic noir. This seems like a very likely setting to be murdered. #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN https://t.co/1uiqQJa8bV
8/ Cognitive dissonance around flying is profound though, something I’m reflecting on a lot as I travel by train to London from Oslo. And this type of action does stir up a lot of very necessary discussion. #climatecrisis #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
9/ Hamburg Hbf: harassed by a man who called me stupid, dumb for not wanting to buy his mangled ticket I didn’t need. Travelling alone as a woman can be difficult, scary, unsafe. Structural challenges to flying less: not just about energy and transport systems. #OSL2LDN
10/ Staying in Hamburg tonight. Really pleased w/ the hotel. #Meininger, a sort of hotel/hostel hybrid. LOVE the very site-specific bed, referencing the city’s geography. There are also very cool postcards in the lobby, the surest way to my heart. #OSL2LDN
11/ Main reason for my trip is to gain a deeper, embodied understanding of how the climate movement is replicating. Wasn’t expecting to see so much of it before London but there are traces of #ExtinctionRebellion #skolestreik #fridaysforfuture everywhere I’ve been so far. #OSL2LDN
12/ Have just visited Hamburg Kunsthalle, which might be one of the best art museums I’ve ever been too. I didn’t have much time so just tried to soak up as many impressions as I could. It gave me some ideas … #LAXLAB #OSL2LDN
13/ Was going to share ideas but they’re a little too unformed, possibly nonsense. Though I’m experimenting w/ tweeting abridged field observations, I also need to write by hand. In the company of Friesentorte and the cup of coffee that will keep me up all night. Mmmm fieldnotes …