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.


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


“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”

“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.

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

System of Systems

The System of Systems is available online from systemofsystems.info/book where you can also find a list of stockists in

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duf.space's Design unlikely futures in the Jungle is a visual essay discussing a project in which they deployed a tandem bicycle with built in cameras to document Calais ('The Jungle') refugee camp before its destruction.

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We interviewed Paul Feigelfeld about 'The Refugee Phrasebook'–a multilingual tool that provides basic useful vocabulary, across 44 languages, related to the most common immediate needs of refugees arriving in Europe.

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Our first exhibition ran from 4th through 21st May 2017 in Athens, Greece at GRACE, a temporary, independent multidisciplinary arts space.

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System of Systems is a transdisciplinary research project founded in 2016 by Rebecca Glyn-Blanco, Maria McLintock and Danae Papazymouri, which explores the legal framework and technology present in the European asylum-seeking systems. Contra caught up with its founders to find out more about the project’s aims and its increasing relevance in relation to displacement and migration.

Through exhibitions, events and a publication, System of Systems poses fundamental questions concerning our relationship with asylum-seekers and the neoliberal context in which they are located. What policies are we voting for as citizens of European countries? How does the asylum-seeking system illegalise people? And how is technology used in processes which both discover and discredit evidence? By positioning the project within such investigations, we hope to encourage debate around a number of pertinent themes, such as the use of language, both oral and written; the role of the body and biometrics; the agency (or lack thereof) of refugees, asylum-seekers and irregular migrants within the system; and the myriad infrastructures and territories along the ‘refugee journey’. By collaborating with artists, designers, architects, academics and activists, we provide an accessible entry to this ever-complex subject through transdisciplinary research.

The number of people applying for asylum in the EU reached a record 1.20 million in 2016, according to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency. This figure is nearly double the previous high water mark of roughly 700,000 set in 1992, following the fall of the Iron Curtain. To ‘cope’ with growing numbers of displaced people, the EU has delegated more and more autonomy to ‘border management agencies’. One of the largest such agencies, called The European Agency for the Management of the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union – commonly known as Frontex – has seen its budget inflate from €6 million to €238 million since its founding in 2005. The namesake of our project – System of Systems – is an informal term used to describe a division within Frontex called EUROSUR. This subsection is described as an ‘information exchange framework’ and ‘surveillance system’ that operates on behalf of the EU. The process of seeking asylum is a ‘system’ composed of many ‘systems’. By stealing this term from EUROSUR, we are overlaying the discomfort produced by their ambitious definition and turning it into a nonsensical term open for redefinition.

The project’s first exhibition took place in Athens in May 2017 and showed the work of nine artists and artistic collaborations. In conjunction with the exhibition, we published a book collating a series of commissioned and re-published essays and interviews. The book opens with an introduction by journalist Daniel Trilling, who examines the hierarchical ‘zone-ing’ of Europe into first and second reception states (to the benefit of wealthier countries). The publication is then divided into three sections: ‘Language’, ‘Territory’ and ‘Agency’.

‘Language’ explores the medium as a crucial means of determining asylum claims, and the section includes an interview with academic and activist Paul Feigelfeld on the ‘Refugee Phrasebook’ project and an essay exploring the artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s ‘Conflicted Phonemes’ (who was featured in our inaugural Athens exhibition). ‘Territory’ incorporates texts that deal with spaces of immigration detention, borders and processes of mapping made unofficially by refugees or officially by states and border management companies. Included here is the essay ‘It is obvious from the map’ by human rights academic Thomas Keenan and curator Sohrab Mohebbi, which addresses the circulation of maps via WhatsApp by a volunteer refugee organisation to aid crossings of the Mediterranean in real time. Finally, ‘Agency’ questions interrelated power relations at play within the process of migration. For example, academic Ayesha Hameed in her essay ‘The Petfrication of the Image’ investigates the act of refugees burning their fingerprints to avoid detection in border control identity databases and how, through this act, the migrant body, the state and international law become inextricable. Additionally Maria McLintock’s interview with a squat initiative in Athens is included, which examines how refugees are using alternative housing initiatives to alleviate the often draconian living conditions of camps.

We are currently in the planning and research stages for a new phase in the life of System of Systems. In keeping with the theme of the emancipatory nature of technology, we are launching a project which will involve circulating a ‘newsletter’ collating pressing news, information regarding activist groups, events and sharing a commissioned visual or written essay by a practitioner working in the field. Since the summer of 2015 when a global refugee crisis was declared, there has been a stark decline in journalistic and artistic responses to this issue; seemingly, the crisis is no longer at the forefront of debate. This is in no way congruous to the severity and urgency of the current migration climate. Through this project, we hope to provide an ongoing voice providing vital commentary on this issue.

The System of Systems is available to order, to find out more visit: www.systemofsystems.info



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