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Weapons of Reason's food issue is designed to inform, not preach, on systems that breed inequality

Weapons of Reason is a publishing project by design agency, Human After All. Edited by James Cartwright, each edition focuses on a particular issue – including power, megacities and the Arctic – and for the most recent edition, the focus is on food. The magazine tackles a variety of questions around our relationship to food, its production, and the corporations who control it. Here, It’s Nice That speaks to James about taking risks, trying to create change and how editing Weapons of Reason has impacted his own choices.

It’s Nice That: Weapons of Reason is a magazine that aims to “turn knowledge into action” – how did you initially tackle that objective? 

James Cartwright: There’s really two ways we try and do that with the magazine. The first is to make the content of each article accessible. We try to ensure that the complex issues we’re exploring are explained in plain English; we don’t use any specialist terms without explaining their meaning, and we try to make information clearer by using concise infographics. All of that is designed to inform our readers in as clear a way as possible. Then there are the action points.

In the first issue of Weapons of Reason each article ended with a numbered icon which, if you flipped to the back of the magazine, corresponding to a way to find out more about the subjects you’d read about or sign up to a campaign. That wasn’t direct enough and it seemed to pass a lot of people by, so with each new issue we’ve tried to find new ways to encourage people to do something after they’ve read the issue. 

The first change was to make the action points central to each article, so now they come right at the end of each piece and take up half a page. The idea is that, if you feel riled up by what you’ve read, then the opportunity to do something about it is immediate. 

In this issue, we ask our audience to read more about concepts like food colonialism and our destructive historic relationship with agrochemicals, as well as taking more simple actions like trying to make fermented foods at home to improve gut health or joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) scheme.

It’s still a big ask for readers to put down what they’re reading and buy a book, donate to a campaign or sign up to take direct action, so we’re trying to find new ways to encourage people to do that. In the future, I think that’ll be more about generating a community with what we do through real-life events, and a dedicated section of the new website (which is in progress) that’s all about taking action. 

INT: Has editing Weapons of Reason impacted your own choices – in your daily life and in terms of “bigger picture”?

JC: In a big way, but I hate talking about it. At their worst, I think activism and “worthy” causes switch people off or polarise people into camps, so I hate the idea that the magazine could become a vehicle for preachy articles. The contents of each magazine is designed to inform people about a big issue as clearly as possible, and allow them to make their own choices – the choices I’ve made off the back of researching and commissioning articles shouldn’t bother anyone else. I’m not vegan yet though if that’s what you’re asking.

The thing it’s highlighted for me is the extent to which all these different issues are connected. Whether it’s our relationship with food; the impending crises of the ageing population, the increasing urbanisation of developing nations – all of it relates to larger systems that breed inequality.

INT: Colin Tudge’s piece, Agrarian Evolution, is introduced with the statement: “All history is myth. That doesn’t mean it’s all fiction. It does mean that the facts are embedded in a narrative that the narrator finds satisfying and generally reflects well on them.” How does this principle manifest in Weapons of Reason more broadly?

JC: I think it’s important to challenge traditional narratives if you have the opportunity to do so. Nobody’s advertising in Weapons of Reason so we don’t have to worry about pissing anyone off that holds the purse strings. None of us draws an income from it, so it would be cowardly of us not to take some risks. I think in general we’re raised on versions of events that support feelings of patriotism and loyalties to systems and governments that have been manipulated along the way. 

In the UK for example, we think of foreign aid programmes as being inherently benevolent and generous acts, but we don’t look at the systems imposed on those nations we offer aid to. There are no free lunches – we take things in exchange. In the previous issue, Power, we dedicated an entire article to exposing some of those uncomfortable truths

Where food is concerned, it’s easy to forget that in the West we import vast quantities of produce, which is grown elsewhere in conditions we don’t consider. We expect cups of coffee to be dirt cheap, but coffee beans are a labour-intensive product to produce, and the people who do it mostly live in abject poverty. The avocado is a cliche example to use, but the UK’s current consumption rates are decimating Chilean water resources and causing drought. Nobody puts that on the labels of the “Ripe and Ready to Eat” avos you pick up in the local supermarket. It’s pretty vital that people think more about these things.

INT: It’s a big question to be taking on, how did you begin to tackle it?

JC: Loads of reading at first. I don’t feel comfortable commissioning anything until I have a pretty good handle on a subject myself. So, I sat down for months and read books, reports and white papers and then started contacting people. It’s hard to get a range of perspectives and do justice to issues as large as the ones that we tackle. The food issue only mentioned meat in two articles; one exploring the recent advances in lab-grown meat and synthesised vegetable proteins, the other looking at the way mega-farms breed pathogens resistant to antibiotics, which might bring about the next global health crisis (Yay!). I just thought those were the two most interesting angles that people might not yet have a grasp on, whereas I think it’s now widely accepted that meat is a disaster for the environment and not the best friend of your heart.

In terms of finding a balance of contributors, I just approach journalists from around the world – some of whom I’ve worked with on previous issues, but more often than not I try to find specialists on a subject. We didn’t have to translate anything for the most recent issue, but we have done in the past. It would be great to do that more in the future, in fact, so we’re not so reliant on the perspectives of the English-speaking world. There’s got to be some kind of inherent bias there.

INT: Could you highlight key ideas from previous issues – is there anything that’s shifted for better or worse since these themes/issues/ideas were written about/featured?

JC: I think the main issue that we keep returning to is this idea of questioning narratives and breaking allegiances to systems that do harm. I’m not talking about calling everything you don’t like the sound of “Fake News”, but actually engaging with the way the world really works. In the last issue we opened with a piece that picked apart the ways that normal people are impacted by multi-billion pound corporations every day without realising – it’s inescapable – and then closed the mag with a piece by Derrick Jensen, which advocated for making simple changes to your life to cut out that dependence on big industry. These seem to be the kind of themes we return to most, and I’m inclined to say that people’s awareness is changing for the better. Or at least I hope it is. If not, we’re all fucked.

Noon-list Work / Publication For Noon, joy lies in the quality and uniqueness of the final product

Since its conception Noon “has always set out to consider what it means to be alive today”, Jasmine Raznahan, founder and editor, tells It’s Nice That. The SS18 issue is based around joy; they asked collaborators who “they felt aligned conceptually with the concept” to respond to the theme via a series of different lenses: “purity, repose, intimacy, love, shame and details”. These abstract sub-headings are representative of the thoughtful style we typically associate with Noon; a magazine that succeeds in bringing together its contributors in a harmonious, critical whole. “Each of the lenses became a story”, Jasmine explains, “and each of the stories became one of sixteen parts that all explored a common theme”. The sections are threaded together beautifully, gathered in unison by text and image.

Ab-dlc-list Work / Publication Atelier Bingo’s new storybook features "pure, expressive images" inspired by nature

Atelier Bingo, comprised of Maxime Prou and Adèle Favreau, has illustrated a new children’s storybook for publishing house, Amaterra. Using its signature cut-out style, Atelier Bingo’s images are colourful, expressive and have stolen our imagination. “The book is about the sky from the height of a child”, the studio explains, “we show what they see — the sun, the stars, bees buzzing around flowers, the steam drawings planes make”.

Jane-stockdale-publication-itsnicethat-list Work / Publication Jane Stockdale's series Watching the World Cup released as book celebrating fans of the beautiful game

Jane Stockdale is a photographer we’ve championed again and again here It’s Nice That and, on multiple occasions, the focus of her work has been sport. From capturing cyclists with Rapha, Nascar drivers with Red Bull or the variety of athletes which make up the Kosovo Olympic team, her work is celebratory of every sportsperson out there.

List-img-accent-mag Work / Publication Accent Magazine on mocking, mimicking and surpassing the mainstream

Since its launch as an online photography journal in 2013, the look, feel and approach of Accent Magazine has been constantly evolving. In its fourth print issue, which launched last month, Accent editors Lydia Garnett and Lucy Nurnberg, and art director Luke Tudor Griffiths, are doing their own spin on the celebrity gossip magazine, drawing inspiration from the likes of dentist-waiting-room-giants Hello! and OK!

Clash-pub-int-list Work / Publication Individual and creative freedom is the lifeblood of the summer edition of Clash

Clash #108 is themed around freedom; “individual and creative freedom is the lifeblood of the summer edition of Clash”, creative director Rob Meyers tells It’s Nice That, “in this issue, we praise the inspiring artists that assert their own unique essence through inventive and distinctive means of expression”. The four cover stars traverse the four poles of what Clash represents musically — high profile pop music, hip-hop/urban music, independent music and a “next wave” artist, and each musician stands true to the theme.

Listpg_13 Work / Publication Dark Igloo’s book Centerhold celebrates the hand modelling of Playboy magazine (NSFW)

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Playboy was having a moment. Yes, there were tits but there were also excellent writers (Doris Lessing, Vladimir Nabokov, Ray Bradbury) and interviews with the likes of Miles Davis, Malcolm X and James Baldwin. The rigorous attention afforded to its literary output also extended to its art direction, with set designers and stylists creating lavish Renaissance-style backdrops for its models to lounge in.

Jim-stoten Regulars / Friday Mixtape Friday Mixtape: Jim Stoten's soundtrack to his solo summer holiday

Happy Friday and happy Friday Mixtape day! As London swelters in a rare heatwave, Jim Stoten, also known by his job title leading name Jim the Illustrator, is off on a solo holiday to Spain. As Jim packs his swimming trunks, suncream and drawing equipment for a week of pondering, he’s also made us a mix that will soundtrack his summer holiday and maybe yours too.

Weapons_of_reason-food-int-02 Work / Publication Weapons of Reason's food issue is designed to inform, not preach, on systems that breed inequality

Weapons of Reason is a publishing project by design agency, Human After All. Edited by James Cartwright, each edition focuses on a particular issue – including power, megacities and the Arctic – and for the most recent edition, the focus is on food. The magazine tackles a variety of questions around our relationship to food, its production, and the corporations who control it. Here, It’s Nice That speaks to James about taking risks, trying to create change and how editing Weapons of Reason has impacted his own choices.

Hugh-kinsells-cunningham-photography-itsnicethat-list-alt Work / Photography Hugh Kinsella Cunningham's photographs show the power and resilience of the Congo's Church

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a country whose Catholic Church is incredibly powerful, with unprecedented national reach compared to other organisations. It’s also a country in political turmoil, with President Joseph Kaliba refusing to stand down. In response to the country’s corrupt and violent government, the Church’s Priests have become symbols of peaceful protest, attempting to lead their people towards an untroubled transition of power.

Noon-list Work / Publication For Noon, joy lies in the quality and uniqueness of the final product

Since its conception Noon “has always set out to consider what it means to be alive today”, Jasmine Raznahan, founder and editor, tells It’s Nice That. The SS18 issue is based around joy; they asked collaborators who “they felt aligned conceptually with the concept” to respond to the theme via a series of different lenses: “purity, repose, intimacy, love, shame and details”. These abstract sub-headings are representative of the thoughtful style we typically associate with Noon; a magazine that succeeds in bringing together its contributors in a harmonious, critical whole. “Each of the lenses became a story”, Jasmine explains, “and each of the stories became one of sixteen parts that all explored a common theme”. The sections are threaded together beautifully, gathered in unison by text and image.

Antonedolezal-photography-itsnicethat-1 Features / Photography Antone Dolezal reimagines the narratives we construct to find meaning in life

The 21st century is often described as a secular age. Faith and superstition have, in many parts of the world, been replaced by science and reason. The traditional belief systems have been succeeded by a firm devotion to the technological advancements of Silicon Valley. Photographer Antone Dolezal is challenging this assumption. When television-viewers across America were following the disheartening 2016 elections, Antone travelled — and continues to travel — across the country’s Southwestern states to capture the spiritual communities of California and Nevada for his series, Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit.

Guangyu-creativechinafestival_bag-int-01 Work / Graphic Design Guang Yu on how everyday observations informs his design practice

A Black Cover Design is a creative studio based in Beijing, China, founded by Guang Yu and Nod Young in 2015. Guang and Nod’s award-winning practice works across branding, strategy and print design; most often with cultural institutions, universities, and art and design festivals. Recent work includes the identity for Shanghai’s first art book fair, Unfold; a poster campaign for AGI China; and printed matter and merchandise for Tokyo TDC Selected Artworks. We spoke to Guang about inspirations, problem-solving and why “suitable” is best.

Ab-dlc-list Work / Publication Atelier Bingo’s new storybook features "pure, expressive images" inspired by nature

Atelier Bingo, comprised of Maxime Prou and Adèle Favreau, has illustrated a new children’s storybook for publishing house, Amaterra. Using its signature cut-out style, Atelier Bingo’s images are colourful, expressive and have stolen our imagination. “The book is about the sky from the height of a child”, the studio explains, “we show what they see — the sun, the stars, bees buzzing around flowers, the steam drawings planes make”.

Frieze-list Work / Art Frieze Sculpture 2018 proves the power of art in the public realm

The UK is experiencing a heatwave, and what better way to experience this warm, balmy weather than spending an evening wandering through one of London’s parks. Yesterday afternoon, It’s Nice That ventured down to Regent’s Park for the reception of Frieze Sculpture. With the summer’s heat lifting the scent of flowers into the surrounding air, and with members of the public already mingling amongst the works of art; it was instantly apparent the uplifting effect sculpture could have on a person.

List-image-locker-room Work / Art Locker room talk: Gray Wielebinski on appropriating the visual, spoken and body language of baseball

For their graduating exhibition at the Slade School of Fine Art, Gray Wielebinski turned the iconography and perception of baseball on its head, in an installation that creates what they describe as “a dream-like queer locker room setting”. A Dog Pees on Things for More than One Reason appropriates the visual codes of the sport to explore themes of “national identity – specifically in the USA, and Americana – desire, myth-making, sports, memory and childhood, fashion and masculinity”; and Gray describes the intention behind the work as being “to blur the lines between reality, memory, projection, hope and mainstream media representations, and to reconsider the framework for how the locker room occupies our cultural imaginations.”

Clifford-jago-bookshelf-itsnicethat-12 Regulars / Bookshelf "Shout out to Hannah Montana's forward-thinking design": Clifford Jago's Bookshelf

Clifford Jago is a stylist and self-confessed “messiah of fashion”. He’s also not real. The culmination of two photographers – who have chosen to remain anonymous – Clifford’s character, and resulting work, is a response to the modern culture of magazines in which publications have to shoot brands simply because they advertise with them.

Nicer-tuesdays-july-launch-list-img Regulars / Nicer Tuesdays Get tickets now for Nicer Tuesdays July

Tickets are now available for our next Nicer Tuesdays event, taking place on the evening of 31 July at Oval Space. Our speaker line-up this month features illustrator Nadine Redlich, animator Sophie Koko Gate and design studio Flat-e with our fourth speaker to be announced shortly.Nadine Redlich is a cartoonist and illustrator based in Dusseldorf and will be joining us for July’s Nicer Tuesdays to give an insight into her quick-witted illustrations. With a knack for turning uncomfortable feelings into simple yet altogether hilarious images, she has previously created work for The New York Times and Zeit magazine. Her talk will highlight how she turns the silliest and most embarrassing of moments into comic strips so relatable, they make you squirm. London-based animator and director Sophie Koko Gate graduated from the Royal College of Art and has been impressing with her immense illustrative skill ever since. Having worked for the likes of Google Pixel, Ace & Tate and Airbnb, Sophie’s work is intricate and accomplished, not to mention funny and ever so slightly weird. At this month’s event, she’ll be talking us through an animation for Adult Swim and performing a mini set with her band John Daker. To accompany Daniel Avery’s latest album Song for Alpha, London-based design studio Flat-e created a fully visual, merging and looping interpretation of the album spanning just over an hour. With a portfolio packed full of live show visuals for various musical artists, its this latest project that the studio will be telling us all about at this month’s event. As the album plays with exploring “the space in which home listening and club music intersect,” Flat-e will explain its response to this and how it created something which can be watched at home, or on a night out.

Mayafuhr-int-list Work / Photography Maya Fuhr’s sensual still lifes open us to a world of pleasure and vulnerability

It is not a secret that we are desperately fond of the nostalgic pastel photographs taken by Maya Fuhr, and her recent collaboration with Nox Shop has stolen our gaze. Making sex toys appear candy sweet, Maya’s recent series features soft, sensual still lifes that juxtapose dildo’s with idiosyncratic memorabilia. Excited by our interest in this project, Maya has drawn from her archive several other collaborations with sex shops. “I want to normalise using sex toys both in solitude and with partners, and create more open conversations among people in regards to what really pleasures them”, she explains.

Jane-stockdale-publication-itsnicethat-list Work / Publication Jane Stockdale's series Watching the World Cup released as book celebrating fans of the beautiful game

Jane Stockdale is a photographer we’ve championed again and again here It’s Nice That and, on multiple occasions, the focus of her work has been sport. From capturing cyclists with Rapha, Nascar drivers with Red Bull or the variety of athletes which make up the Kosovo Olympic team, her work is celebratory of every sportsperson out there.

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