What we do

Contra is a not-for-profit annual magazine and arts organisation that explores the complex relationship between visual culture and conflict.

Conflict, in all forms, continues to inform the work of artists, photographers and other visual practitioners. From traditional photojournalism to the live streaming of global events, the image has the power to influence policy, shape public opinion and even spark us into action.

Through our printed publications, community outreach projects and events programme, Contra aims to raise awareness of various forms of conflict through investigating the role of the image. Beyond the pages of our own publication, we seek to make a tangible difference on the ground and positively impact our community.

Contra seeks to establish a network of cross cultural exchange, support young and emerging artists and promote dialogue and debate.

By providing a platform for marginalised voices, we aim to help those who have been directly affected by conflict.



In print

Issue 01, titled Displacement, looks at the visual response to current and past migrations. Published in January 2018, it features contributors such as dancer-choreographer Akram Khan, photographer Harley Weir, and Turner Prize nominees Forensic Architecture and Oscar Murillo.

Issue 02, themed around Protest, explores how visual culture engages with and reacts to different forms of resistance. Published in April 2019, it features contributors such as Kara Walker, Olafur Eliasson, Santiago Sierra, Seamus Murphy and Raqs Media Collective.

Our third issue, titled Ruin, is due to be published in spring 2020.



Events

Alongside the publication, we run an ongoing events and community outreach programme that forms an integral part of what we do. These events take the form of film screenings, panel discussions, exhibitions, workshops, 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
Lucas Giles
Alexander Morrison
Angelique De Raffaele
Sophie Chester-Nash

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

“The very opposite of the cut and paste zine of resistance, Contra’s calm glossy pages belie its powerful message.”
MagCulture

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


Stockists
Artwords Bookshop Limited [Broadway Market, London]
Artwords Bookshop Limited [Rivington Street, London]
Athenaeum Boekhandel [Amsterdam]
Basheer Graphic Books [Singapore]
Chandal [Barcelona]
CRUDO [London]
Do You Readme?! GbR [Berlin]
Dispozitiv Books [Bucharest]
Edicola 518 Impresa Sociale Soc. Coop. [Perugia]
Foyles Bookshop [UK]
Frab's Magazines & More [Online]
Average [Toronto]
Homestead Store [Delivery]
Housman's Bookshop [London]
ICA [London]
Magalleria [Bath]
Magazine Office Copies [Delivery]
MagCulture [London]
Magma [London]
Magma [Manchester]
Manifesto-Associacao [Porto]
Materia Prima [Porto]
Mosto Laden
Multi-Arts Corporation [Taipei]
Papercut [Stockholm]
Photographers Gallery [London]
Print Matters! [Zurich]
Rails London Ltd [Delivery]
Rainbow News [London]
Rare Mags [Stockport]
Reading Room / Francesca Spiller [Milan]
Rosa Wolf [Berlin]
Skylight Books [LA]
Stack [Online]
Tate Modern [London]
Tender Books [London]
Village Bookstore [Leeds]
Walther Koenig Books [Whitechapel Gallery, London]
Walther Koenig Books [Serpentine, London]

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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