For Document Spring/Summer 2020, we survey the terrain and map the course of the world around us, both where we’ve been and where we’re headed, to find we’re at a cultural and social precipice. Our very future hangs in the balance—how we respond to this moment will have lasting ramifications.

The lack of information surrounding the spread of COVID-19 in Europe and the United States was on stark display during Milan Fall/Winter Fashion Week, when murmurs of the trouble to come first began to circulate. By the time editors had moved on to Paris, the murmurs had become a swell, which in the coming weeks transformed into a tidal wave. With global economies on hold, we are living in a surreal, new landscape that has separated us from one another even as it has brought us together.

Left: Kaia Gerber by Willy Vanderperre and Olivier Rizzo. Right: Adut Akech by Venetia Scott.

Our daily lives may be on pause, but artists and creative minds are busier than ever. Creative expression has a unique ability to shine a light on our shared experiences. As Louis Fratino reminds us in his conversation with actor Russell Tovey, “Art is so much about affirming life. Normal life has become something that people are yearning for so badly, so art with life-affirming qualities becomes that much more precious.”

Much of the issue’s production took place prior to the onset of COVID-19, but many of the conversations have a prescient ability to address issues relevant in a post-pandemic world. Actor Earl Cave and musician Stuart Murdoch peel back the layers of their inspiration, from times of reflection to anxiety for what is to come. Essayists Samantha Irby and Durga Chew-Bose exchange observations on the writer’s unique capacity to embrace seclusion and their ability to connect with the reader through their work. Dior’s Kim Jones and masked crooner Orville Peck explore the depths of their inspirations in childhoods growing up around the world, and Simone Rocha and actor Gwendoline Christie bond over a shared appreciation for artist Louise Bourgeois and feminine power. Architect and contributing editor Charles Renfro and artist Jacolby Satterwhite, who build their own worlds, both virtually and IRL, affirm that community is more important now more than ever.

Left: Vilma Sjöberg by Mario Sorrenti and Sarah Richardson.  Right: Ajsa Movic by Richard Bush and Sarah Richardson. Make-up by Lucia Pieroni.

Elsewhere in this issue, we travel to Australia to witness firsthand the impact of the wildfires; to Zambia to view the repercussions of pollution that’s a direct result of the destructive mining practices; and to Vietnam to see what plastic (recycling) looks like firsthand with photographer Laurence Ellis. A foresighted display of the impacts of not heeding global warnings, the portfolio presents both a beautiful and haunting vision of what may become of our planet if we continue to move forward recklessly. And we look at how technology is radically reshaping the way we live, from sex to food production.

Our covers, which this season look into the future, were created by Willy Vanderperre and Olivier Rizzo, Mario Sorrenti and creative director Sarah Richardson, Venetia Scott, Richard Bush, and painter Amoako Boafo.

In addition, we felt it was vital to hear from some of the most significant artists working today, across a range of disciplines, on their responses to the global pandemic in the form of a series of special limited edition covers.

Amoako Boafo, Marie Humbert, 2019.

Abstract painter Christopher Wool created a stark, monochromatic cover using the universal symbol for “positive” as well as the emblem of the International Red Cross, questioning our role in the progress of humanity. Multidisciplinary Virgil Abloh imagined a post-society world in his return to nature. Visionary conceptual artist Mel Bochner overlaid languages on top of one another, reminding us that humanity and the shared human experience is held together through communication. Native American artist and activist Edgar Heap of Birds highlighted ceremonial sites and places of healing throughout the United States in his Native Sovereign language. Boundary-pushing artist Judy Chicago references Native American legend in a powerful juxtaposition, emphasizing human culpability in the climate change crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, and the urgent need to change course and live harmoniously with nature before it is too late.

Taken together, these covers and the dynamic conversations and features that underpin the issue, help illuminate the extraordinary perseverance, will, and creativity that animate our world and remind us that even in isolation, we are never truly alone.

Document Spring/Summer 2020 is available for pre-order here.  

The special limited edition covers by Christopher Wool, Virgil Abloh, Mel Bochner, Edgar Heap of Birds, and Judy Chicago will premiere in the following weeks on Document Online.