Photo: Veikko Somerpuro


In the IHME Helsinki 2021 Commission by Scottish artist Katie Paterson entitled To Burn, Forest, Fire, you can experience the scent of the world's first forest 385 million years ago and the scent of the last forest in the age of the climate crisis. The work is based on the artist's concern about the world's sixth extinction. The work will take place as a series of incense burning ceremonies, which will be held in different parts of Helsinki from 1 to 30 September 2021.

"We share a quarter of our DNA with trees and trees are our lifeblood. Nevertheless, we have cut down nearly half of the forests on our planet and are destroying rainforests so quickly that they may be gone in a hundred years. I believe that the planet and all of its life are closely connected and we can face the climate catastrophe more efficiently through our senses, intuitively. I hope that my work will take participants to the first forest on Earth and a future scenario that I hope we will never end up with." Katie Paterson says  about her artwork.

Collaborating with scientists

Katie Paterson's studio has collaborated with scientists to clarify questions, such as, how to define the Earth's first forest? What kind of trees and plants grew in the Devonian forest, 385 million years ago? What living life forms today resemble those ancient species? Ecologists and biologists studying endangered contemporary rainforest biomasses investigated the Earth's living forests that are in danger of disappearing in our lifetimes, and their scents.

The scents of the past and the future forests were transformed into custom-made incense sticks in collaboration with the Japanese incense maker Shoyeido.

Venues and schedules of the incense ceremonies

The ceremonies of the IHME Helsinki commission 2021 are held almost every day in September and the best two. Weather reservation for outdoor ceremonies – Suomenlinna island, Kumpula Botanical Garden and Observatory.

Due to covid-19 restrictions only 25 persons are allowed to gather indoors and thus the participants will be included in the order of arrival at the event/meeting place. We recommend to arrive to the venue 10-15 minutes earlier.

The duration of the incense ceremony is about an hour and the entrance if free. Please, arrive in time and give yourself permission to relax, in so doing you will create a peaceful experience for other participants, too.

Some of the ceremonies are aimed at special target groups.

Changes are possible, please follow the updates on IHME's website.

Free entrance. Warm welcome!

Conversation: Katie Paterson and David Haskell

IHME is hosting an online conversation between IHME Helsinki 2021 artist Katie Paterson and Professor David Haskell at 6 pm (EEST / Finnish time, UTC +3) on Wednesday, September 8, 2021.

David Haskell is one of the scientists that Katie has collaborated with in making IHME Helsinki Commission 2021, To Burn, Forest, Fire.

Katie's dialogue with Professor Haskell was particularly important for defining the scent of the last forest, and he has also contributed an essay to the booklet to be published as part of the project.

David Haskell's work as a writer, scientist, and sound recordist reminds us that the essence and beauty of life emerge from relationships and interdependence. He is the author of the prize-winning books The Forest Unseen and The Songs of Trees, and is a Professor at Sewanee: The University of the South, Tennessee, USA.

Source: IHME Helsinki