works by silvan laan

LIME CYCLE (2022) Wanting to pay heed to the alchemical imperative solve et coagula (dissolve and coagulate) I did an experiment involving the so-called lime cycle. Carbon dioxide is burned out of limestone (a form of calcium carbonate) to produce lime, which slowly again absorbs the CO2 as it cures (normally as a plaster or mortar). I selected a piece of the grey limestone which commonly surfaces in Cannon county, Tennessee. After extracting the rock (measuring 5 gallons volumetrically) from the top soil I broke it up into smaller pieces. The pieces I then placed inside a small kiln which also was built from locally sourced limestone as well as clay. After the burn, I slaked the resulting quicklime and cast the white lime slurry back into the indentation left by the original stone, leaving it to petrify. Filmed by Emily C. Thomas.

URBAN YARD (2021 — 2022) Project for an urban yard in Amsterdam. Several existing elements (a poured concrete slab, an undulating path in round concrete tiles) were incorporated in the scheme, whose main feature is an ornate circular terrace in brick and cobblestone.

BASALT (2017 — 2018) A series of collages of photographs of individual basalt rocks on the sea dyke of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, the Netherlands. In part prefiguring "Lime Cycle" (2022), I subjected the masonry of the dyke to a process of photographic deconstruction and digital recombination. My concern was with the dissolution of single-point perspective, inspired by the collages by David Hockney. The work on the photograph measures 49X43 cm; digital color print behind laser-cut passe-partout. The work was part of the group exhibition Art of the South, Crosstown Arts, Memphis, Tennessee, 2018.

SHEW STONES (2018 — ) With Emily C. Thomas. One of the largest deposits of obsidian (volcanic glass) is located in the high desert near Burns, Oregon. We worked with a local lapidary to produce a series of obsidian "shew stones", after the divinatory devices used by Renaissance occultists like John Dee. We shaped the highly polished objects like smartphones and tablets, in order to raise questions regarding the effects that digital devices may have on our innate intuitive faculties. Is the fact that most people spend a good deal of time in communion with their devices beneficial or detrimental to the cultivation of such faculties? The Shew Stones will be used in various forms of social practice, the first iteration of which took place in 2020 as part of Bridging the Distance, an initiative by UrbanArtsCommission, Memphis, Tennessee.

INVERTED BIRD BLIND (2016 — 2017) Yellow Bird is a 175 acre property in rural Tennessee, designated by its proprietor David Wood to be a garden for artistic experimentation. In 2016 and 2017 I salvaged the timber frame of an old shed to create Inverted Bird Blind, a permanent installation. In the ordinary bird blind, views are directed from the inside outward, as the birdwatcher hides in anticipation. Inverted Bird Blind directs views from the outside in, towards painted sketches of local bird species on the interior walls. Inverted Bird Blind can be described as an awareness-enhancing machine. In a small way, the project reiterates Plato's cave: after looking for a few moments at the "shadows" on the inside of the blind, the viewer turns around and perceives the landscape with a renewed sense of curiosity. In 2022 I returned to Yellow Bird with my family and kept a bird diary for the duration of our two-month stay.

VIRGO RISING (2016) With Emily C. Thomas. For an event marking the Fall equinox we made an engraving in a slab of limestone, depicting the constellations at the moment of sunrise on the Fall equinox in the Age of Pisces. This permanent feature was accompanied by a 1300-foot line of solar lights hugging the rolling hills, oriented due east—west (the exact points of sunrise and sunset on the equinox.)

FIELD LINES (2016) The 2016 graduation exhibition of Sandberg Institute took place in Aldo van Eyck's orphanage. My project consisted of a hypothetical re-alignment of the building to the magnetic north pole. I marked the "corrected" outline on the floor, inside and outside, using a combination of blue adhesive tape and chalk spray. Photo Marijn Smulders.

FALCON FLIGHT (2016) The Zuidas high-rise quarter in Amsterdam hosts several bird species originating from alpine habitats; the species with most popular appeal is the peregrine falcon. With help of a grant from the City of Amsterdam, Stadsdeel Zuid, I realised a public art project named "Mount Zuidas", consisting of two distinct elements: "Falcon Flight" and "Probiotics for Public Space" (in cooperation with VU Hortus Botanicus and TAAK). "Falcon Flight" was made with the help of independent British falcon researcher Richard Sale. A flight path recorded with a gps-device, strapped to the back of a captive peregrine falcon, was translated into a virtual reality experience. Participants wore a falcon mask over the virtual reality goggles.

PROBIOTICS FOR PUBLIC SPACE (2016) In the Chinese "penjing" garden at VU Hortus Botanicus I installed a permanent installation consisting of three pieces of congealed lava, mounted on a wall. The installation invites the colonisation of micro-organisms, fungi and plants: probiotics for public space.

OAK SCARF (2014) With psychiatric patients living at Willem Arntszhoeve, Den Dolder, I realised a performance and installation honoring an oak tree on the premises of the institution. Participants made drawings on white handkerchiefs which were then tied together to create a scarf. (Student project for the Cure Master program at Sandberg Instituut.) Photo Anton Mansour.

IJDOORN BIRD BLIND (2012 — 2014) A commission to design a bird blind in polder IJdoorn, a wetland managed by Vereniging Natuurmonumenten just north of Amsterdam. My main inspiration was the traditional Japanese ceremonial tori-i gate, which denotes the border between sacred and profane realms. The blind consists of a clay mound, prefab concrete slabs, galvanised steel footings, steel bolts, and a timber frame and bench out of chestnut, oak and tropical hardwood. Carpentry by Jorrit Vijn, photo Elmer van der Marel. Special thanks to Frank van Groen and Vogelwerkgroep Amsterdam.

EATERY (2014) A project for an eatery at Waterlooplein in the centre of Amsterdam. The dodecahedral shape refers to the nearby statue of Spinoza, which shows the 17th century philosopher flanked by the platonic solid. Student project for the MArch preparatory year at Academie van Bouwkunst, Amsterdam.

ANT TRAIL (2008) As artist in residence at Youkobo Art Space, Tokyo, I produced an installation/photo collage, re-creating the movements of insects that I had previously video-recorded in Surinam. As in my final project at Gerrit Rietveld Academy, I was seeking ways of surrendering my personal will-to-form.

JIGSAW CHAIR (2007 — 2012) A plywood chair assembled from cnc-routed jigsaw pieces. A version in HPL (High Pressure Laminate) was made at a private client's request.

CHAIN LINK (2006) A modular and versatile furniture piece out of recycled cardboard, mdf and iron clamping levers. Frank Gehry's "Wiggle Chair" was an important influence when I was developing a series of furniture prototypes in these early years.

BIRDWALK (2004) An installation consisting of two elements. First: a collage of the erratic flight paths of small birds, digitally re-created from video-recordings. Second: sculptural scale models of canopy walkways reflecting said flight paths. This was my final project at the Architectural Design department at Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam.

NO TITLE (2003) An intervention during the Landjuweel cultural festival in Ruigoord. Bamboo stakes marked with white paint, planted in straight rows randomly intersecting, make the wide open space palpable.


Silvan Laan received training at Gerrit Rietveld Academie (BDes) and Sandberg Instituut (MA), Amsterdam. His work is interdisciplinary, aimed at the integration of opposites. Also a keen birdwatcher, Silvan oscillates between an analytical and a mystical attitude to nature.

Silvan Laan genoot zijn opleiding aan de Gerrit Rietveld Academie (BDes) en het Sandberg Instituut (MA). Zijn werk is interdisciplinair, gericht op de vereniging van tegendelen. Silvan, tevens een enthousiaste vogelaar, schippert tussen een analytische en een mystieke verhouding tot de natuur.

email: silvan.laan[at]

Unless stated otherwise, text and images by Silvan Laan. All rights reserved. Last modified 08/24/2023