This issue is dedicated to one essential question: What does counterculture look like in this particularly turbulent moment? As we set forth to create an issue in the midst of the biggest cultural shift of our lifetimes, we found ourselves debating the definition of what it was we were searching for. This question has taken us across the globe and to the deepest corners of the web, through the history of protest, and inside temporary autonomous zones. Throughout history, insurgent forces have sprung from various geographic, social, and informational conditions. With today’s tech-dominated landscape comes new challenges: Information proliferates in real time, collapsing the space between the popular and the fringe. This has arguably brought about the end of counterculture as we know it; as writer Caroline Busta observes in her piece on algorithms and counter-futures, “With digital platforms transforming legacy countercultural activity into profitable, high-engagement content, being countercultural no longer means being counter-hegemonic.” In the absence of a monolithic mainstream to be countered, new methods of interrogation are required. Did the internet kill counterculture, or just force it deeper underground? When algorithms reward the controversial, what is truly rebellious and what does meaningful resistance look like?
To answer these questions, we travel to rural England, where photographer Laurence Ellis documents the DIY outdoor raves that are providing young people with meaning and community—even in the midst of a pandemic, when physical proximity is among the biggest taboos. Busta takes us inside the ‘dark forest,’ a non-commercial online space where subculture still percolates, and Madeleine Morley dissects the evolving aesthetic of countercultural design. In “Rethinking the Future,” we call upon the most inventive minds to envision creative solutions to the problems of today; elsewhere in the issue, Honey Dijon, Nomi Ruiz and Juliana Huxtable discuss their experiences with sex and intimacy, subverting the popular narratives that aren’t serving them. One of the themes to emerge throughout this journey has been how questioning—and in some cases, abolishing—the systems we inherited can illuminate a path forward. As well as proposing theoretical alternatives to our current world order, Document Fall/Winter 2020 engages with the people challenging systems from within—whether that means working behind the shield of privacy or propelling counternarratives into the public sphere. Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of the encrypted messaging app Signal, joins rapper Freddie Gibbs in dialogue about the value of privacy in an increasingly networked world; actor Yara Shahidi joins scholar Sarah Lewis in a conversation about the power of visual imagery in creating a global mindset; and American Artist joins digital theorist Legacy Russell to discuss new possibilities for community and resistance. We embarked on this issue looking for fringe communities, niche subcultures, and people visibly opposing the mainstream, but emerged with a new understanding of counterculture that bears little resemblance to that of the past. Rather than a single community or movement, we found that counterculture is a way of looking at the world around you, engaging with others, renouncing dogma, and welcoming reinvention.
Document Fall/Winter 2020 Issue No. 17 is available for pre-order online now.
New covers will be unveiled over the next two weeks.