Burning Sky – China


Pursue a dream under a Burning canopy


“Burning Sky”/ ”Pursue a Dream”

The exhibition raises the existential question: How can we continue soaring under the canopy of our life-tree while the sky is aflame? Are we capable of such a feat? 

The exhibition “Burning Sky” explores the dilemma of flying physically and mentally while the world is facing a climate crisis. The artist, a Danish pilot, spent a month as an artist in residence at NAC Nordic Contemporary Arts Center, where she was inspired by the Banian trees with their air roots, large canopies, and often religious shrines underneath, which she encountered while trekking in the Fujian Mountains. 

The three-month exhibition period was graced with the presence of both local visitors and larger groups of art enthusiasts who joined us in the exploration of our poetic, military, and commercial use of airspace within the aesthetic confines of the exhibition.

“Burning Sky” portrays us humans moving through a beautifully incandescent cloudscape, the air burning orange to ash. We soar over terrains where it remains unclear if they are formed of cities, rocks, or organic matter. The concept of combustion is every pilot’s worst fear. Are we on the brink of incineration or will we rise like the Phoenix?

Guided performative meditations are conducted under the tree in the Garden and the canopy of the sky. Artistic debates and performative conversations, meditations, and guided flights explore the brain’s possibilities for creating advanced landscapes, future visions, and flying in them.

The exhibition raises aesthetic connections between complex issues surrounding women’s exclusion or restrictive access to “airspace” and income, the demands of poor people for food and basic prosperity in the face of climate challenges, and the challenges that the population of a country poses in terms of possible solutions and methods.

The exhibition is a critical processing of the artist’s large multi-year China project. It raises the question of how we can strive for freedom, adventure, and getting the poor out of poverty – symbolized by the airplane and the sky – while avoiding that our urge to freedom and the good life will turn the earth into a burning desert.

The geopolitical situation in the region near Taiwan during the exhibition period necessitated the change of the exhibition’s name from the evocative “Burning SKY – Flying Under Our Burning Canopy” to a less politically sensitive “Pursue a Dream”. The shift was essential due to the highly volatile political situation, and we took every measure to adapt while maintaining the integrity of the exhibition’s spirit while not risking the exhibition space or the people working withn it. 

Although the change in title may seem drastic, it reflects our collective effort to promote dialogue and understanding, even in a complex political climate. The original poster, adorned with the title “Burning Sky”, carried an optimistic blue color palette, creating a visual embodiment of hope and resilience.

However, the new poster for “Pursue a Dream”, while carrying an optimistic title, depicts a more somber image: a pilot couple navigating through a scorched landscape. This contrast perhaps serves as a metaphor for the dichotomy between our dreams and the realities we must navigate, an echo of the journey we embark on as artists, viewers, and participants in this shared world. We strive to portray the turbulence of our times and maintain a space for aesthetic exploration, introspection, and creative engagement.

Two airmen of Xiamen Airline enjoy the exhibition


The exhibition aspired to foster a deeper understanding of the complex interplay between art, society, and the environment. It was a testament to the transformative power of artistic expression and its potential to inspire positive change. By shedding light on the urgent issues we face, from gender inequality to the impact of human activities on our planet, we hope to spark a collective awakening and motivate individuals to contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive future.

Curator Jing Jing Ke prencented at the opening while the artist participated online from Denmark – not flying and spending Co2.

 “Pursue a Dream,” we invited to reflect on your own relationship with the world around you. Let us contemplate the challenges we face and the choices we make, as we strive to find balance under the burning canopy of our existence. Together, let us envision a future where the sky is no longer aflame, but filled with the boundless possibilities of hope and resilience.

Simone Aaberg Kærns China projects since 2016 are displayed on video screens. 

Simone Aaberg Kærn: “I’m so happy for the journey I have flown together with the wonderfull team at Nordic Contemporary Art Center(NAC)in Xiamen my exhibition and Project in China is comming to an end and very grateful for the support and engagement I have ben meet with in Beijing, Chengdu, Fujian as such and Xiamen. Thanks to the schools and Public who have eagerly engaged in the Project. Thanks to my artistic partner on the project Kim Lykke Jørgensen, sponsors: Statens Kunstfond, Beckett Foundation and S.C.Van Fonden and Jeudan for providing Great work Space in Copenhagen. Thanks to Yatao Zhang for working closely with me realising my vision – Jingjing Ke and Lan Lan dor organising the show. Else Marie Buckhdal, Tina Hecht-Pedersen and Pondus for helping me get funding. Thanks to my family for support. Thanks to the The Ninety-Nines, Inc., International Organization of Women Pilots and the Chinese pilots. Thanks to all of you to stay with me during the many exhibitions and events in China. You have been there even under and after the extended lockdown -I’m so greatful we did this together.”