With the release of Document No. 12, our Editor-in-Chief & Creative Director Nick Vogelson looks at how the changing of the artist's role in culture is reflected in our S/S 18 issue.

“What is an artist’s responsibility?” asks the actor and activist Asia Kate Dillon in conversation with Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors about artistic responsibility. It’s the animating question of our journey to uncover the contours of a life lived creatively—one that strikes at the heart of Document’s 12th edition. Dillon points to one possible answer in Nina Simone, an artist who set the mold for socially conscious work, and her claim that an artist’s duty is “to reflect the times.” It will, perhaps, come as no surprise that we are living in a time of great inequality and misrepresentation. Could it be said, also then, that an artist’s work in this moment—one of fake truths and dissatisfaction—begins with empathy?

For Document’s Spring/Summer 2018 edition, we simultaneously explore questions of agency, identity, social responsibility, and shared experiences, while scanning our recent history in order to better understand a very strange year. This sentiment is echoed in our cover story featuring the novelists Édouard Louis and Zadie Smith in conversation. In it, Smith explains that the restrictions society places on identity “are neither about race nor gender nor even sexuality, but the narrowness of experience. If I had to rely on my experience, as it is at the moment, that is, a middle-aged woman mostly confined to the house with small children—if I had to believe that this was the only scope of my existence, the only thing available to me as subject or as idea, I think I would go mad.”

This season, Document had the pleasure of conversing not only with Édouard and Zadie, but also with Dillon and Patrisse Khan-Cullors; Luca Guadagnino, the director of the Oscar-winning film Call Me by Your Name and the forthcoming Suspiria; and Fereshteh Forough, founder of the first coding school for girls in Afghanistan, and Barbara Liskov, one of the first women to be awarded a doctorate in computer science.

We also had the pleasure of accompanying the photographer Luke Gilford as he explored the new American West at the World Gay Rodeo Finals in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as described by the writer Mark Smith, and traversed the globe with Laurence Ellis, a photographer in search of modern modes of contemplation. Of course, in this pursuit of the inner truth, one must not overlook that knowledge found in the body as well as the mind. In an exploration of the future of sex, Cody Delistraty asks if technology can truly satisfy and if pleasure is the same as satisfaction.

This notion of shared experiences is evident in our seven limited-edition covers, created by Hedi Slimane and fashion director Sarah Richardson, Mario Sorrenti, Willy Vanderperre and contributing fashion editor Olivier Rizzo, Alasdair McLellan, Grace Coddington and Craig McDean, Richard Bush, and the artist Lorna Simpson.

The process of crafting Document No. 12 left us certain that if empathy must be the origin point of engaging art in this day and age, then sharing these creative visions as democratically and unequivocally as possible is the necessary burden of those consuming it.