Katie Paterson’s work consists of the scents of the first and last forest 

Katie Paterson’s IHME Helsinki commission 2021 To Burn, Forest. Fire is conceived as sereies of incense ceremonies. 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 art work.

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. More about the scientific background  and aromas >>

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

Practical info

Incense ceremonies are being held in more than ten locations across Helsinki, indoors and outdoors, together with IHME’s partners. Some of the events are aimed at special guests. There is a weather reservation for outdoor events. Up-to-date event information is updated on the IHME Helsinki website.

IHME’s audience staff will gather the audiences for hour-long ceremonies in order of arrival. We invite the audience to calmly experience the artwork. 

Health safety is important to us and we follow up-to-date guidelines for public events related to the covid-19 pandemic. 

You can give feedback about the commission here >>

IHME’s partners: Helsinki City Office, Helsinki Cathedral, Helsinki and Uusimaa Visually Impaired Association, Finnish National Museum, Korkeasaari Zoo, Cultural Center Stoa, Kumpula Campus, Kumpula Botanical Garden, Association of the Deaf Helsinki, Observatory, Roihuvuori Parish, Suomenlinna Island, Finnish Deafblind Association, University of the Arts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts, The Rock Church.