Forest Mind film on the Night of Science


  • Ursula Biemann: Forest Mind (2021), film still.

Welcome to a film screening and discussion on The Night of Science, 12 January 2023! We will be presenting the video essay Forest Mind (2021) by the Swiss artist Ursula Biemann at 18:00 at Finnkino Maxim. Forest Mind will be shown twice during the evening, with a discussion about its themes between screenings. Speakers are associate professor Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen from the University of Helsinki and researcher Jussi Jylkkä from Åbo Akademi. The programme is curated by Paula Toppila, the executive director and curator of IHME Helsinki.

Set in the Amazon forests, Forest Mind explores the intelligence in nature from both shamanistic and scientific perspectives. Indigenous peoples’ knowledge is powerfully present in Forest Mind, since Biemann has been collaborating with the indigenous Inga community in Colombia for several years. Their traditional medics have long practiced the indigenous science of Ayahuasca, based on the visions evoked by this psychoactive plant. In the video essay these shamanistic practices are in dialogue with a western scientific perspective and modern sciences, such as plant neurobiology.

In the Inga communities of Colombia knowing not only occurs from a distance, by describing, naming and exploiting, but as an encounter between minds and worlds. While the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples has long developed in interaction with plants and the environment, understanding the interdependence of everything, in the 1950s, Western science discovered the DNA molecule as the common unit of life for all species. Art makes the connections between these approaches visible.

Event schedule

17:30 Finnkino Maxim, auditorium 2 doors open

17:50 Words of welcome, Paula Toppila IHME Helsinki

18:00 Forest Mind, 31 min., Ursula Biemann (2021), 1st screening

18:30 Break 15 min

18:45 Discussion, 45 min, Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen and Jussi Jylkkä, moderated by Paula Toppila

19:30 Break 15 min

19:45 Forest Mind, 31 min., Ursula Biemann (2021), 2nd screening

You can join us freely according to your own schedule and decide whether you want to see the film before or after the discussion. Finnkino Maxim’s (Kluuvikatu 1) auditorium 2 has a limited number of seats, which will be filled in order of arrival. The auditorium’s balcony is wheelchair accessible. Read more about the accessibility on Finnkino’s website. We follow safer space principles. Come as you are. We recommend arriving on foot, by bike or by public transport. IHME Helsinki has been awarded the EcoCompass certificate. We are committed to saving our planet’s natural resources, so we have not invited the artist to attend. The event’s emissions will be compensated for.

About the artist

Grounded in a research-based practice and extended fieldwork in remote locations, Ursula Biemann (b. 1955, Switzerland) creates video essays and texts that investigate environmental interconnections across local and planetary contexts, focusing especially on water and forest ecologies and extractivist practices. Since 2018, Biemann has been involved in co-creating an indigenous university in the Colombian Amazon, for which she developed the online platform Devenir Universidad. Her works are regularly exhibited in museums and biennials worldwide, and she has had comprehensive solo exhibitions at: MAMAC, Nice, France (2021); Broad Art Museum, Lansing, USA (2019); and Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Germany (2013). She received the Swiss Gran Art Award, Prix Meret Oppenheim in 2009. Biemann has published many books, most recently Forest Mind with Spector Books on her artistic research in Colombia.  >> 

About the speakers

Jussi Jylkkä is a philosopher and psychologist working at the psychology department at Åbo Akademi university, Finland. He has done research in areas such as cognitive psychology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind and language. Since 2022 he has been working on the three-year project “Comforting delusions or life-transforming insights”, funded by the Kone foundation, focusing on psychedelic insights and their compatibility with the scientific worldview. He coordinates the Network for Psychedelic Research which brings together psychedelic researchers from both humanities and science.

Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen is an associate professor of Indigenous studies at the University of Helsinki. She received PhD degree in Latin American Studies in 2007 and since 2013 she has been a docent of Latin American Studies. She has worked in Brazilian Amazonian with Arawakan-speaking Apurinã and Manchineri, as well as Panoan-speaking Huni Kuin. Her current research interests include more-than-human approaches, biodiversity conceptualizations, and biocultural heritage. Virtanen has carried out community-based projects on deep history of human–environment relationality, Indigenous future imaginations, Indigenous politics, and Indigenous research methodologies. She is (co)author and (co)editor of numerous publications. Among her many responsibility roles, she is a working group member of the Sámi Research Ethical Principles.

The Script of Forest Mind in English >> download here