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Sculpture (MA)

Sylke van der Heiden

Sylke van der Heiden (B. 1997 Haarlem, The Netherlands) is a Dutch artist living and working in London. She obtained her bachelors in conceptual communication design from Design Academy Eindhoven in the Man and Communication department, and did an exchange to Chelsea College of Arts in the Fine Arts Department.

She loves film, and external realities, and dreams, and fairytales, and water, and seas (though not when the water is too deep and she has to swim), and trees (especially when you get really really close them and there is no way you can see the whole tree from top to bottom and your eyes are forced to take in all the small details, leaves, woodgrains and markings) and washing lines when the white laundry is drying in the garden and the sun is shining, and her bedside table lamp that is made of matt glass and shaped like a flower, and sheer mesh fabrics (that when layered on top of each other create a very strange illusory texture that looks great both the the natural eye as well as to the lens of a camera), and sand (dusty sand), and the sound of bike tires on the road when there are small pieces of stone trapped between the wheel and the tarmac, and looking at things so fast that all the objects become blurry so that the boundaries fade out and it becomes a new vision (an other disrupted vision), and listening to the 'sound soup' of her direct environment (roads, gardens, rooms) and trying to locate where each individual sound comes from, and soft textures with hard and sharp edges, and repetition, and slightly off beat rhythms resembling human heartbeat when emotions change.

'The shapes in the room shifting from being up close and magnified to being far away and distorted, depending on what side of the binoculars I put my eyes against. A spectator looking through both sides of the lenses.'


De Stichting de Fundatie van de Vrijvrouwe van Renswoude te ’s-Gravenhage

Stichting dr. Hendrik Muller

Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds

Gilbert Bayes Charitable Trust

'We are all sat in the uncomfortable chairs of the waiting room. Creatures crawling in the screen before us, looking at us through the window, resembling human bodies. Uncertain of their place in the world, their place on the stage.

Waiting for the assumption of neutrality, where we are questioning, am I projecting or interpreting?'

Working within the realm of film installations, set design, costume and sound, I am interested in the female narrative within the male dominated world of cinema. (I have written my dissertation about this) as well as the reframing of biblical or mythological stories from a female perspective. The physicalisation of these narratives are usually created from textiles, creating soft and adjustable sets in combination with metal frames and landscapes in which the narratives come to life. A transformed reality, as the film and set collide in the final installation. 

I am transforming pieces of my dissertation written last year into a visual representation of my research into the role of gynecology, female sexuality and motherhood in cinema, and its relation to the male gaze. Walter Benjamin describes the director as a surgeon in his book the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. The intimate relationship between the surgeon and their patient lies at the core of Benjamin’s comparison, as the surgeon while operating is: ‘Penetrating into the patient’s body.” Through my mother’s experiences gynecology was a part of my life when growing up. My memories of my mother’s body, my body, and female bodies in general decide how I see myself and how I will shape myself. The impact of gynecology has passed through generations, the ideas of motherhood, the connections between the gynecologist, the inner workings of my body and my mothers body, and my own sexuality and gynecological issues, lie at the core of my degree show film. 

In my research I looked into the use of drape sheets and curtains within cinema. Terri Kapsalis describes a visit to the gynecologist in her book Public Privates, Performing Gynaecology from Both Ends of the Speculum:

The drape-sheet curtain rises at the hands of the physician, dividing front stage from backstage, while the exam spotlight shines on the spectacle. The physician or spectator inserts a speculum and props open a little makeshift stage within a stage. In this space, a parallel drama occurs.’

In the sets I am Using digital prints on fabric, sheer and satin, of inner body like images, taking from ultra sound images that show ovaries with unreachable eggs and little fluid filled sacks that block the way for the fertile eggs to reach the womb, (much like the eggs and sacks of fluid I have inside my body, causing me a lot of trips to the gynecologist), in combination with scanned images of knitted pieces I made, strings knitted together like veins and flesh. 

As my consciousness fades the surgeon begins.

As the slate board closes the camera starts rolling.


Film Installation

At night I dream of medical instruments:

Hinged caterpillar crawling around, forms perfection inside, seductive as it is.

I know reality when, hard cold metal touch of sterilized reflecting silver, is reaching within. Dissecting the imagined dream of its competitive and realistic twin, transforms, high on expectations, external substances under the skin.

Creaking hinges, caterpillars spreading, moving through liquids, unlocalized, until the expected yet unannounced encounter occurs.

I am now a prisoner of my own pulsating heartbeat. Channeled and amplified, mirrored by the hard cold touch of sterilized reflecting silver.

Standpoint Gallery

Lapped Seams and Silver Linings


Digital print on fabric, Beaded string,

Silicone on mesh

'The surgery is over. The sound of metal touching metal as the used surgical instruments are placed back onto the silver tray they were kept on. Needles and thread are passed over, Precision, detail, concentration. An attempt to return to the once seamless fabric of the body. An attempt to return our insides back into their natural place of hiding.' 

The costumes are made mainly out of multiple layers of mesh, working with transparency, reflection on my research on framing and transparency in cinema. How windows and reflecting surfaces are used within film.

The white matt glass beads have a transformational ability once they are emerged in water, as they become clear, transparent. The process of putting endless amounts of beads on a string to create these pieces, the sense of repetition and rhythm.

Connecting. My body, Your absent mind

Your heartbeat, slightly out of tune.

Its use of rhythm, gives me the feeling of anxiety.

Bringing out

The horror and madness

Inside me

Reflecting on the other

I know you exist

Spreads of dissertation (screen- shot, framed on my computer)

9268 words written in 2021

Foreshadowing (noun)

[ fawr-shad-oh-ing ]

An indication of something that will happen in the future, often used as a literary device to hint at or allude to future plot developments.

The liquid, moving through a transparent PVC tube connected to the large needle sticking halfway out of my right hand, got closer and closer to being pumped inside my body and, merge in to my bloodstream.

Contact me if you want to read the full dissertation

Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds

Sponsors: De Stichting de Fundatie van de Vrijvrouwe van Renswoude te ’s-Gravenhage Stichting dr. Hendrik Muller Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Gilbert Bayes Charitable Trust