“For me, this is a matter of common sense. I am in favour of expanding the archive, reading the different archives of the world critically, each with and against the others. There can’t be any other meaning to a planetary curriculum.”—Achille Mbembe, in Interview by Torbjorn Tumyr Nilsen in Bergen Norway on November 30, 2018
The genesis of the series of works entitled Curriculum came from the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe’s ideas around archive and curriculum. Curriculum I began with exploring the rich archive of Bill T. Jones’ movement phrases which are mostly non-theatrical, non-psychological, non-narrative, all made with the intention of clarity and form. Running parallel to and in juxtaposition with this formal exploration is a ticker tape of topical concerns informed by the 24-hour news cycle: climate change, racial violence, identity politics, reparations, decolonization. Mbembe might categorize these concerns as “planetary curriculum.”
Curriculum I was set to premiere at the Holland Festival in the summer of 2020 and was canceled due to Covid-19. At the height of the pandemic PEAK Performances commissioned Curriculum II as a film project. As with its predecessor, the work attempts to embrace formal directness and clarity while allowing it to be intruded upon by word fragments, imagery, and the stuff of Mbembe’s planetary curriculum. This time the focal point comes from Louis Chude-Sokei’s treatise The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics, which explores the connection between race and technology from minstrelsy, music production, cybernetics, to artificial intelligence and posthumanism. Curriculum II came to an abrupt stop because of Covid-19. The work will be reimagined as a live performance for an in-person audience, and, as with any curriculum, it is a dynamic entity made up of intersecting parts whose content will and must change in response to time, place, and purpose.