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Contra & It’s Freezing In LA!
Courtesy of Vinita Khanna

This art-activist event is having important conversations on climate change

A partnership between publications Contra and It’s Freezing In LA aims to address humanity’s destructive relationship with the natural world

In the midst of the wave of environmental activism that has swept politics, news, and culture over the past week, Contra and It’s Freezing in LA! are teaming up for a new exhibition exploring humanity’s relationship with nature. We Will Be Forgotten considers humanity’s role in a rapidly changing ecological landscape and our increasing destruction of the natural world.

As well as featuring work by artist Vinita Khanna, the event will include a conversation between Khanna and scientist Yves Plancherel, followed by a set from BBZ. It opens at the Design District Space x Dazed studios tomorrow, following Dazed’s partnership with the Greenwich Peninsula which offers affordable working spaces for London’s creative talent.

This exhibition is the first in a series of collaborative events with Contra and It’s Freezing in LA! titled Climate and Conflict. The magazines – which explore issues of conflict and climate change respectively – have launched the project to explore humanity’s role in the climate crisis. A programme of exhibitions, film screenings, and conversations will reflect on how art can be a catalyst for more environmentally conscious behaviour.

We Will be Forgotten will host a series of sculptures by Khanna including an immersive installation of 1,000 moulds made from the plastic packaging of water bottles, toothbrushes, and light bulbs. The London-based artist has teamed up with scientists to create work which encapsulates the precarious position of humanity in the face of ecological destruction.

“We seem to have become helpless in our interaction with the very marvels that we created for our benefit” – Vinita Khanna

Khanna’s work reflects on the damaging behaviour of a profit-driven society, and how we are ultimately the driving force of our own ecological demise. “Despite our dominance over all the other species and treating the Earth as real-estate, we seem to have become helpless in our interaction with the very marvels that we created for our benefit,” she says. “These man-made phenomena now act as forces with a power of their own, in some cases threatening our very survival.”

“Nearly every industry that we have become dependent on to lead what is considered an ordinary life is contributing to the demolition of the ecosystem in some way. This invisible force has been let loose and any human response faced with the enormity of destruction seems almost hypocritical.”

Below, Shivani Hassard of Contra tells us more about the collaboration and why it’s important to get together IRL.

How did this partnership come about with It's Freezing in LA! and why is it important?

Shivani Hassard: We became aware of each other last year when we were both shortlisted for ‘Launch of the Year’ in the Stack Awards. We then met up earlier this year at Offprint Tate, and realised that we had a lot in common in terms of what we do and where we want to go. Both of our most recent issues looked at the subject of protest, including a section on protest for the climate in Contra 02, and so we began to discuss the possibility of a collaboration of some kind. The struggle for natural resources within shifting landscapes has always been a feature of global conflict, but the climate crisis has been propelled to the forefront of political debate within the last year.

We decided to use this opportunity to collaborate to explore this interaction and decided that an events programme would be an interesting way to do this. A key focus of Contra is to provide an alternative means of ingesting and engaging with topics from the mainstream media, and we hope that this event series can explore these themes in new and exciting ways.    

Why did you want to work with Vinita? Can you tell us about her residency over the past month?

Shivani Hassard: Climate change is a particularly hot topic in the art world at the moment, but it’s been the cornerstone of Khanna’s practice for almost three decades. She contributed to Contra 02, as part of the visual culture and climate change article. We were fascinated by the way in which she works so closely with environmentalists and academics, providing a unique insight into the topic. It’s not always simple for artists creating socially engaged work to retain a nuanced and philosophical approach, but her work overcomes this through her poetic structures and haunting objects.

Why is it important to get people together, in person, and host events like this?

Shivani Hassard: We love the capacity of print media to explore topics in an artistic and creative way, but obviously the main advantage of events is their ability to directly engage with the audience, who enrich the conversation and challenge us with their own experience and expertise. We are also aware that, despite our attempts to keep our magazines as accessible as possible, our events tend to bring in a much wider audience than our typical readership. Working with It’s Freezing in LA! has also allowed us to both engage with each other’s audiences in a really fascinating way.

What's next in this series of events?

Shivani Hassard: The next event coming up in the series will be an in-conversation that we’ve programmed as part of the Wimbledon Bookfest 2019. This will look at the potential of architecture and design to address environmental disaster and ecological change.

Ahead of the upcoming exhibition Eco-Visionaries: Confronting a planet in a state of emergency at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), Samaneh Moafi of 2018 Turner Prize-nominated Forensic Architecture, and Gonzalo Herrero Delicado, RA Curator, will discuss how contemporary art, architecture and design practices are addressing the current ecological breakdown. This will take the form of a conversation examining how creative practitioners are working towards raising awareness about the drastic human impact on the environment and exploring alternative visions to create a more empathic relationship between humans and nature.

The exhibition opens to the public at the Design District Space x Dazed studios in Greenwich from September 28-October 6. Details of the event can be found here