For Document’s Spring/Summer 2023 edition, we consider what a life well-lived means today, and how experiences across physical, digital, and spiritual worlds inform it. What defines the real? As technology advanced, the last few decades were positioned as the beginning of the end of the real world. Gatherings were staged in Fortnite and Minecraft, clothes turned to pixels, and a mythical crypto database “decentralized” currency. But the rate at which our lives changed didn’t just pave the way for new digital futures— it also generated a desire for original, material landscapes. People want touch; they want community.
The search for the real doesn’t always translate to an outright rejection of digital worlds; in fact, the two have long been intertwined, creating an endless feedback loop, each mimicking the other in turn. In this issue, Oliver Bown explores how online landscapes were designed to reflect physical ones, forking humanity into camps based on how we move through physical space. Similarly, conceptions of the “future” city aren’t conducive to true innovation. As Mohamed Elshahed outlines, imagined metropolises are often more fixated on matching science-fictional interpretations than they are on bettering the lives of citizens.
The endless possibility of the digital world reminds us of the limitations of its physical counterpart—especially regarding its resources. Laurence Ellis captures small farms across the United States, which are merging ancient agricultural knowledge with modern mechanics to maximize the regeneration of their land—to feed it as it feeds us. Their work is, in part, an answer to overconsumption, a cultural reckoning that spans land, food, clothing, and all the materials sacrificed to an insatiable desire for more.
Pleasure might be one of the most indisputably real things we have. Jack Parlett looks back on the history of Fire Island, exploring its architectural ties to eroticism—the pornographic films it produced, turning fantasies of participation into present gratification. The same can be said for the ways in which culture travels by the printed page. Writes Jesse Dorris on Toronto’s famed queercore zine, “J.D.s willed a subculture into existence by collecting its ephemera.”
Intangible things are more difficult—but mustn’t something be real if we have to search for it? Ira Silverberg revisits ceremonies of hallucinogens and hospitality on Jamaica’s Treasure Island, exploring the evolution of his own subconscious. Elsewhere, we uncover the photographic archive of Allen Ginsberg to better understand his immediate world. In Ginsberg’s eyes, his contemporaries were saints, exceeding their physical forms. That desire to escape from the self is something Cillian Murphy has been musing on. Says the actor, “I’ve done it a bit, where you play a character that is very few degrees away from yourself, and I find that more challenging. I’m interested in trying to disappear.”
Our fashion portfolios are named after the phrases of Jean Baudrillard, whose logos is especially relevant to the current entanglement of the world—a liminal space between the fertility of digital landscapes and the tangibility of physical ones. Creative and Fashion Director Sarah Richardson crafted an array of inspired imagery, with the help of stylists like Joe McKenna, Karen Binns, and Robbie Spencer and pioneering photographers including Craig McDean, Bruce Weber, and Alasdair McLellan.
Document was born after print was presumed dead. At the dawn of our second decade, it’s clearer now than ever how necessary that materiality is—how the care and craft the printed page requires renders a text collectible.
Each conceptual detail behind this issue manifests on the printed page. We introduce two new typefaces to underscore these themes. The first, Seance, comprises two blackletter styles based on the outlandish designs of French lettering artist Jean Midolle; designer Tim Ripper reworks them in modern form, while still maintaining their creepy and campy roots. Before digital typesetting, hand-rendering headlines was common practice. Miguel Reyes came across Tommy Thompson’s renditions of Caslon, written quickly with a broad-tipped pencil, in his classic 1946 manual How to Render Roman Letter Forms. Inspired by the tension between the rough, informal quality of the rendering and the classical letterforms depicted, Reyes used these sketches as the starting point for his own interpretation of typefaces cut by Nicolas Jenson in Venice in the late-15th century. Nicola Text is robust and low-contrast, with simplified details, making it feel almost like a slab serif, while Nicola Display is graceful, its high-contrast giving the angled serif and stroke endings a crisp elegance. With special thanks to Christian Schwartz and the whole Commercial Type team.