The best exhibitions of 2016

Gallery | From London to Copenhagen, Hanover and the town of Lyssarea in Arcadia, here’s a roundup of the year’s best exhibitions and best young festivals.

11Polaroids desk

We’ve brought together two new documentary festivals that merged new forms of documentary and art – one that launched for the very first time this year and the other in its decisive seventh year – alongside our exhibition highlights from three cities and a remote town in Greece: London, Copenhagen, Hanover and Lyssarea.

In 2016 we were caught by Susan Hiller’s investigation into belief and the unconscious. John Akomfrah’s first solo exhibition at Lisson presented three new film installations including The Airport (2016), a weeping landscape of ghosts lingering in our collective consciousness physically and metaphorically. Copenhagen’s Nikolaj Kunsthal also presented Akomfrah’s epic three-channel installation Vertigo Sea (2015), a magnificent recording describing man’s relationship with the sea, which premiered at the 56th Venice Biennial in 2015, All the World’s Futures.

The Barbican’s Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers was curated by photographer Martin Parr and looked into how Britain’s changing landscape and tremendous social history was documented by leading photographers from the 1930s onwards. Frames of Representation, a new festival showcasing daring films, emerged this year from London’s most brave minds and housed at the ICA. Look out for its 2017 version!

Over three nights, the work of Gregory Markopoulos gathered together individuals from all corners of the world for his ENIAIOS IX – XI in Lyssarea – a rare event that takes place every four years for the duration of his ENIAIOS cycle. Cate Blanchett declared rage against persona in 13 rare roles as seen in Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto, an installation of 13 parallel films at Sprengel Museum in Hanover and we were magnified by Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers and Mexican landscapes at Tate Modern.

The team behind this year’s Ethnographic Film Festival in Athens did a brilliant job in bringing together more than fifty screenings to an expanding audience, the festival’s largest so far, housed by the newly opened cinema Astor in the heart of Athens.

We immersed ourselves in the work of prolific New York street photographer Saul Leiter while we were taken in an acoustic journey of sound and film at Wellcome Collection’s THIS IS A VOICE exhibition and were morphed from fiction to fantasy to documentary with the unraveling work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul in the Tanks at Tate Modern.

“…and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” – Georgia O’Keefe

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Luke Moody

A Frantz Fanon quote on screen in Concerning Violence (2014) directed by Göran Olsson
A Frantz Fanon quote on screen in Concerning Violence (2014) directed by Göran Olsson

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The Pearl Button (2015)
The Pearl Button (2015)

“I’d love for these water people not to have disappeared.”
Patricio Guzmán, The Pearl Button

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Making it real together

Revealing creative dialogues in nonfiction films, a playful act between filmmaker and subject as early as 1950, are evidence that documentary filmmaking is the art of collaborative conceit.

Luke Moody

Stranded in Canton (2014)
Stranded in Canton (2014)

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Independent spirit: 21st Sheffield Doc/Fest

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The past is always with us. But who wants to live in an antique shop?
Ian McShane in How We Used To Live

Happiness, dir. Thomas Balmes
Happiness, dir. Thomas Balmes

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Archipelago connected: 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

Coinciding with the events in Thessaloniki as the European Youth Capital, the screens in the northern Greek city wrote ethics, truth and literacy on the wall.

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In the Land of the Deaf (Le pays des sourds, 1992)
In the Land of the Deaf (Le pays des sourds, 1992)

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Animal features: new nature documentary

As Leviathan hits London cinemas this month, Luke Moody compiles a list of animal features and talks about the endoscopic camera eye in the new nature documentary.

Luke Moody

Leviathan (2012)
Leviathan (2012)

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Act normal: hybrid tendencies in documentary film

On the release of Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing in UK cinemas, some excitement is emerging about the possibilities of new hybrid forms of documentary.

Luke Moody

“All great fiction films tend towards documentary, just as all great documentaries tend toward fiction.”

Jean-Luc Godard

The Act of Killing (2012)
The Act of Killing (2012)

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