IHME Helsinki 2021

Ensimmäisen metsän ja viimeisen metsän suitsuketikut. / The incese sticks of the first and last forets. Kuva / Photo: Veikko Somerpuro.

Katie Paterson: To Burn, Forest, Fire


To Burn, Forest, Fire consisted of the scent of the first-ever forest on earth and the scent of the last forest of the age of climate crisis, made into incense and then burned across a variety of sites around the city of Helsinki in 1-30 September and 1 October, 2021.

In connection to the art work there is a booklet published to present the scientific research behind the definitions of the forests and the scents. Essay in the booklet is written by Professor David Haskell.

The scent

of extinct forests


Those words outline the concept for Katie Paterson’s IHME Helsinki Commission 2021. All her artworks start with these little poem or haiku-like written phrases. In 2019, she published a book of these short descriptions of her ideas called A place that exists only in moonlight. Some of them have become artworks in the material world, while others await their moment of becoming.

The diagrams for the incenses Website for To Burn Forest Fire

Image of Katie Paterson, a woman with blond mid-length hair standing outside in a park, smiling and holding a cup of three incense sticks in her hands, facing towards the camera.
Katie Paterson, photo: Veikko Somerpuro

Katie Paterson about the commission

In the end, I was left with a hopeful feeling that all of us together can bring about a change before it’s too late.

Audience feedback for To Burn, Forest, Fire ceremonies in 2021

Katie Paterson’s To Burn, Forest, Fire incense ceremonies as part of the World Weather Network


IHME Helsinki participates in World Weather Network with IHME 2021 commission, Katie Paterson’s To Burn, Forest, Fire ceremonies. The network consists of 28 international organizations that commission contemporary art. The members of the network were invited to organize incense ceremonies locally. 14 organizations welcomed the invitation and during June 21, 2022 and June 21, 2023 there will be ceremonies all around the world:

ARTANGEL, UK: 21.12.2022 at Senate House Library
ARTINGENIUM, San Sebastián, Basque Country: Date and place TBC
ART JAMEEL, Dubai / Middle East: 9.10.2022 at Jameel Arts Center
ART SONJE CENTER, Seoul, South Korea: 9.11.2022 at Art Sonje Center
BUNDANON, New South Wales, Australia: 26.11.2022 at the opening of Siteworks exhibition season
DHAKA ART SUMMIT, Bangladesh: During January 2023 but date and place TBC
ICELANDIC ART CENTER, Reykjavik, Iceland: 3.9.2022 at Living Art Museum
KHOJ, New Delhi, India: During April 2023 but date and place TBC
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART AND DESIGN (MCAD), Manila, Philippines: 6.8.2022 at Arroceros Forest Park
TE TUHI, Tamaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand / Oceania: 23.11.2022 at the coastline at Ihumatou Fossil Forests
UCCA, Beijing / Qinhuangdao: 21.3.2023 at Ucca Dune or theTang Hotel
YINKA SHONIBARE FOUNDATION, Lagos / Ijebu, Nigeria: Date and Place TBC
WAAG Amsterdam, Netherlands: either during Sep to Oct 2022 or during March to Jun 2023, date and time TBC

World Weather Network

Conversation: Katie Paterson & David Haskell

IHME hosted an online conversation related to the IHME commission 2021 To Burn, Forest, Fire on September 8th, 2022.

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.


About the IHME Helsinki 2021 commission elsewhere

“Art meets geology – The IHME Helsinki 2021 commission brings the distant past and future to Helsinki in the autumn”

Paterson, K., Maguire, S., Salonen, J. S. & Zalasiewicz, J.

2/2021, Geologi

What is IHME?

We combine art, science, and climate work