What we do

Contra is a not-for-profit independent publication that considers the relationship between visual culture and conflict. Published annually, each issue takes a theme related to conflict and considers its role in visual culture both past and present.

Conflict informs the work of many artists, photographers and other visual practitioners. In an era in which images are increasingly ubiquitous and have the ability to shape public opinion, it is important to analyse the way we perceive conflict. Our aim at Contra is to give space to and question these intersections in print and through an ongoing events programme.



In print

Issue 01, titled Displacement, looks at the visual response to current and past migrations. Published in January 2018, it features contributors including dancer-choreographer Akram Khan, photographer Harley Weir and research agency Forensic Architecture, who were nominated for the 2018 Turner Prize.

Issue 02, Protest, published in April 2019, explores how visual culture engages with and reacts to different forms of resistance. Featuring contributors including Kara Walker, Olafur Eliasson, Santiago Sierra, Seamus Murphy and Raqs Media Collective, it poses questions such as: What defines protest and how does it relate to visual culture? How powerful is art as an enactor of social change? And what does the future hold for protest as a visual language?

We would like to invite potential contributors to pitch content for Contra’s third issue, which will focus on visual responses to destruction, preservation, degradation, decay, demise and renewal related to or caused by conflict.
We are keen to hear from artists and practitioners of all backgrounds, writers, photographers and other creatives, and we welcome contributions in the form of photography, journalism, fiction, illustrations, poetry, book extracts and more. All content published in the magazine must contain a strong visual element and relate to visual culture.

If you would like to get involved, please send your pitches to hello@contrajournal.com by Tuesday 3 September.
Please share widely with friends and network

Stay tuned for further updates after the deadline.

Events

We run an ongoing events programme that expands on the themes explored in print. These events take the form of film screenings, panel discussions, exhibitions, talks, artist residencies and more. Keep posted on our social media channels for news about what’s coming up.



Who we are

We are a group of passionate volunteers with a varied background in publishing, events, filmmaking and research. The idea to form Contra derived from a shared interest in representations of conflict and a belief that accessible critical analysis of this topic is missing within everyday encounters with media.


Our team

Ben Bohm-Duchen
George Brodie
Shivani Hassard
Alexander Morrison

Design by Our Place

Distributed by Antenne Books



Press

“Through the combination of captivating photo essays and insights
into the thoughts of well-known creatives, Contra Journal utilises
art and design to create a platform that communicates stories and
champions unheard voices”
It’s Nice That

“Numerous new art publications pop up every year, and some
stand out more than others. Contra… certainly has a USP”
The Art Newspaper

“Issue 01 of Contra was one of our favourite launches last year”
Stack

“I was really impressed by the way Contra drills down into the
issues it covers and looks at them from a human perspective,
resulting in content that has a real resonance.”
Maurice Wren,
Chief Executive, Refugee Council

An in-depth interview with the Contra founders published by Dazed can be found here.


Stockists
Antonio Brizioli [Perugia]
Artwords Bookshop Limited [Broadway Mkt]
Artwords Bookshop Limited [Rivington St]
Athenaeum Boekhandel [Amsterdam]
Basheer Graphic Books [Singapore]
Chandal [Barcelona]
Do You Readme?! GbR [Berlin]
Foyles Bookshop [Magazines]
GLOW SYSTEM S.R.L. [Kajet]
Homestead Store
Housman's Bookshop Ltd
Magalleria [Bath] [MCCABE DK]
MagCulture [London EC1]
Magma [Covent Garden]
Magma [Manchester]
Manifesto-Associacao [Porto]
Materia Prima [P-4050-381 PORTO]
Mosto Laden
Multi-Arts Corporation [Taipei]
Papercut (Stockholm Delivery Address C/O
Print Matters! [Geroldst. Zurich]
Rails London Ltd (Delivery)
Rainbow News
Rare Mags
Reading Room / Francesca Spiller
Rosa Wolf [Berlin]
Skylight Books
Stack C/o Bethany Ajebon
Tate Modern [TURBINE SHOP]
Tender Books
Village Bookstore [Leeds]
Walther Koenig Bks[Whitechapel Gallery]
Walther Koenig Books [Serpentine]

To get in touch, drop us an email or follow us on Instagram and Twitter to stay in the loop.

Assessing the damage: London’s Imperial War Museum highlights cultural destruction at times of conflict

Bamiyan Buddha in the Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan which was subsequently destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

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Ruins of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, following destruction by ISIS in August 2015. © Hassan Blal / Alamy Stock Photo

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British Army poster from 1943, created to educate and inform its soldiers of the importance of respecting property, including cultural heritage © IWM (Art.IWM PST 18865)

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British poster from 1915, which denounced German forces’ destruction of culture and heritage in an effort to drive recruitment. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 13606)

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Jacket, part of a self-designed uniform, which belonged to Hermann Goering, one of Adolf Hitler’s most powerful senior officers. © IWM (UNI 562)

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Burnt page fragment from the National and University Library of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo which was destroyed by Serbian forces in 1992. © András Riedlmayer Collection on Balkan Cultural Heritage. Special Collections. Fine Arts Library, Harvard University

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In 2001, the Taliban published a video documenting their destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas – a major UNESCO world Heritage site in central Afghanistan. These monumental sixth-century Buddhas were deliberately targeted as a means of erasing pre-Islamic history, and their iconoclasm demonstrates the devastating effect that war can have on our cultural heritage.

The video is now on display at a major new exhibition, What Remains, which opened last week at the Imperial War Museum in London. Curated in partnership with Historic England, the show brings together a collection of more than 50 photographs, oral histories, documents, digital objects and artworks, exploring the intersection between cultural heritage and war. It forms part of a wider series, Culture Under Attack, which comprises a free season of exhibitions, music, performances and events taking place at the museum until 5 January 2020.

The exhibition examines the motivations behind cultural artefacts being attacked and also the reverse: why the human psyche compels us to protect and preserve objects of cultural significance. This dichotomous approach demonstrates how cultural objects are valued by both the perpetrator and the victim – by those who destroy and by those who preserve cultural heritage – reflecting the complex and yet binary nature of war and conflict.

“War has always damaged heritage, but modern warfare is particularly destructive” says curator Carl Warner. “Homes, neighbourhoods, towns and whole cities are under threat from modern shells and bombs. We hope that visitors are encouraged to question how we respond as individuals, communities and nations to the void often left behind.”

To achieve this, the show combines a mixture of sound work, visual culture and interactive digital content. Exhibits range from a set of archaeology awareness playing cards (which the US armed forces used to advise troops on the importance of protecting cultural property), to the uniform of Nazi party leader Hermann Goering, to 3D prints of sculptures destroyed by Islamic State when they ransacked Iraq’s Mosul Museum in 2015. Particularly noteworthy among these prints are the Lion of Mosul, an Assyrian guardian lion statue recreated using crowd-sourced photographs, and Unknown King of Haar, inside of which Iranian artist Morehshin Allahyari has embedded a flash drive containing images, video and documents relating to the reconstruction.

What Remains ultimately reminds us that the preservation and rebuilding of damaged heritage is a highly contentious and subjective matter, open to debate. An interactive touch-screen reiterates this point, posing questions to the audience on topics such as whether it is better to create new buildings instead of preserving old ones in the aftermath of conflict, and displaying the percentile of answers compared to other visitors. As Warner reiterates, this debate should involve us all. “We [want] to make the preservation of heritage more than just an academic issue,” he says. “[For] in order for any real debate to gain proper traction nationally and internationally, it needs to be popularly supported.”

What Remains is on show at the Imperial War Museum, London until 5 January 2020

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