For Document’s Summer/Pre-Fall 2021 edition, produced as the external world began to open up, we turn inward to explore desire: a theme that surfaced with existential questions and individual reflection during the shared experience of lockdown, providing us an opportunity to consider how we might be transformed in the pandemic’s aftermath. As actor Julianne Moore reflects in conversation with Grace Coddington for this issue, “In society, we’re always looking outside to have someone else tell us who we are. The hardest thing is to try to be quiet on the inside and try to figure that out.”
Informed by the historical frameworks through which desire has been interpreted in the past, we explore the ways in which it can now serve to shift our thinking and challenge dominant cultural narratives. Artist Mickalene Thomas, who contributed an original cover for Document, joins curator Thelma Golden in conversation about the power of art and representation, concluding that desire can be an act of resistance. Desire is, as Dean Kissick writes in his article on sensuality in the digital age, the act of “imagining [the] pleasures we wish to experience in our lives”—but it can also be the comfort of shared experience and knowledge, as Japanese Breakfast frontwoman Michelle Zauner observes in a conversation about grief, motherhood, and H Mart.
Elsewhere in the issue, filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, through a Buddhist conversational exercise, ponders the primal source of desire and creativity—and its utter opposition to the pursuit of wealth, while writer Larissa Pham explores her longing for religious belief and whether art can produce a similar state of reverence. For musicians Björk and serpentwithfeet, the spiritual and sensual are intimately connected: both through experimental sound and awe for the sublime beauty of nature. Perfumer Frédéric Malle explores the seductive power of vulgarity, and authors Chris Kraus and R.O. Kwon consider erotic power exchange and the desire to transgress norms, reshaping our cultural and personal narratives in the process.
In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates suggested that a necessary component of desire is an absence—that we desire what we don’t, or can’t, possess. But this lack is also a generative force sparking reinvention and change; as humans, we are always seeking something bigger, a fantasy that drives everything from romantic pursuit to scientific innovation. Setting our sights toward the future, we travel from the UK’s seaside towns to Scotland’s islands with photographer Laurence Ellis as he documents the artists and technologists endeavoring to align individual desires with the good of the planet. From the need for human connection to the pursuit of knowledge, desire comes in many forms—but while its object may vary, the experience of desire is one we all share.
New covers will be unveiled over the next week.