Jitka Hanzlova, Representations of Silence and Social Change

Jitka Hanzlova, Water, Untitled, 2013–2019 | © Courtesy of Jitka Hanzlova and National Gallery Prague.
Jitka Hanzlova, Water, Untitled, 2013–2019 | © Courtesy of Jitka Hanzlova and National Gallery Prague.

Between November 15, 2019 and February 16, 2020, National Gallery Prague shows the works of Jitka Hanzlova, as part of the exhibition entitled “Silences.”

A Review Article by Pablo Markin.

“Silences,” curated by Adam Budak, is the first extensive survey of Jitka Hanzlová’s works in Czechia, her native country. Her photographic oeuvre that elaborates an identity formation is sampled in this exhibition’s photographic works, such as Rokytnik, referring to a memory trace, time capsule, 1990-94, Water, 2013-2019, Bewohner, which translates as an inhabitant from German, 1994-96, and Vanitas, which thematizes the passing of time, 2008-2012. Hanzlová’s works foreground the topics of social, cultural and political belonging. The catalogue for the exhibition, Jitka Hanzlova, Silences, which is published by König Verlag, comprizes essays by Adam Budak and Urs Stahel, and a conversation between Jitka Hanzlová and Zdenek Felix.

In this show, Jitka Hanzlová’s images convey different images of silence, as a plural phenomenon. In this exhibition, Hanzlová follows Clarice Lispector, a Brazilian novelist of Jewish-Ukrainian origin, in her reflections on character formation, the representation of silence and and the passage of time. As Lucia Villares argues, for Lispector, her literary characters function as transparent containers for demonstrating large-scale social changes, such as urban transformation, while offering their internalized images. Lispector’s works offer a literary representation of the experience of objects as imbued with uncanny, impenetrable, and monolithic presence, while being linked to the critique of modernization as an ideology, a set of imposed ideas.1

Jitka Hanzlova originates from the Carpathian Mountains of the Czech Republic. Hanzlova’s work differs from nature photography. “I was looking for the eyes in the forest,” says Hanzlova of her forest-related photographs, “but it doesn’t work because you cannot see your own eyes.” In search of her subjective reality, Hanzlova has been photographing her native Rokytnik in 1990 after the Velvet Revolution. “The first pictures I took were too clear,” says Hanzlova of her early forest landscapes.

As Edgar Allen Beem says, where Ansel Adams approached nature as spectacle, Eliot Porter as specimen, and Paul Caponigro as symbol, Hanzlova seeks to represent a hidden presence in her photographs. To capture the seen and the unseen aspects of her subject matter, Hanzlova uses different photographic equipment, such as a 35mm and a 6 x 9 view camera.2

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Jitka Hanzlova, Water, Untitled, 2013–2019 | © Courtesy of Jitka Hanzlova and National Gallery Prague.

Cite this article as: Pablo Markin, "Jitka Hanzlova, Representations of Silence and Social Change," in Signs, Modes, Assemblages, November 22, 2019, https://sma.hypotheses.org/331.


  1. Villares, Lucia. “Modernization and the phantasmagoria of commodities in Clarice Lispector’s A cidade sitiada.” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, vol. 87, no. 4, 2010, p. 473+. Gale OneFile: Diversity Studies, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A244026155/PPDS?u=lirn17237&sid=PPDS&xid=e8085b02. Accessed 14 Nov. 2019. []
  2. Beem, Edgar Allen. “Into the woods: Jitka Hanzlova explores the unknown within the forest of her childhood home.” Photo District News, Nov. 2006, p. 156+. Gale OneFile: Communications and Mass Media, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A154694471/PPCM?u=lirn17237&sid=PPCM&xid=a3faa348. Accessed 14 Nov. 2019. []

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