To Burn, Forest, Fire


To Burn, Forest, Fire uses scent to explore the first-ever forest on Earth, and the last forest in the age of the climate crisis. The artwork employs the senses to cultivate an intimate, intuitive experience that aims to transport participants through time as a reminder of the increasing levels of extinction caused by humanity. 

To Burn, Forest, Fire explores the scent of the first and last forests through the creation of bespoke incense sticks. The artist collaborated with scientists to define and characterise these forests, the scents of which have been made into incense and burned across a variety of sites around the city of Helsinki, and beyond.

The scents mimic the first forest on earth: the Cairo forest in the Hudson Valley, USA, comprising the extinct tree Cladoxylopsida, believed to be one of the first trees on the planet. The last forest on Earth is represented as the highly threatened Amazon. Its scent is described as similar to what you’d experience in a well-planted greenhouse: the combined scent of vegetation, moisture, soil, and decaying plants and wood. It’s the smell of life. The incense recreates the scent of the entire landscape from the period in question, not only the extinct tree itself, but the atmosphere of the forest, the scent of the soil, water and air of 300 million years ago. Each incense stick burns for 15 minutes.

“Humans have used incense for thousands of years, mostly as a bridge to what dwells beyond the everyday, through prayer, oblation, and ritual. To Burn, Forest, Fire places that experience into the context of deep time and the living Earth community.”

READ | On the aromas of the first and last forests, by David Haskell