b. 1953, Roxas City, Philippines
Norberto Roldan was born in 1953 in Roxas City, Philippines. He earned a BA in Philosophy from St. Pius X Seminary, Roxas City; a BFA in Visual Communications from University of Santo Tomas, Manila; and an MA in Art Studies at University of the Philippines, Diliman. In 1986, he founded Black Artists in Asia, a Philippines-based group focused on socially and politically progressive practice. In 1990, he initiated the biennial VIVA EXCON (Visayas Islands Visual Arts Exhibition and Conference). Roldan was a finalist for the Philip Morris Philippines Art Award, Manila, in 1996, 1997, and 1999. In 1998, he was awarded Juror’s Choice for the same award as well for the Art Association of the Philippines Annual Art Competition. Roldan is the current artistic director of Green Papaya Art Projects (est. 2000), an independent, artist-run initiative and alternative art space that supports collaboration and exchange between Asia-Pacific and Filipino artists. Citing the influence of Joseph Cornell and Santiago Bose, Roldan juxtaposes objects, images, and textual fragments as a means to reject the idea of historical certainty and propose new social, political, and cultural narratives in its place.
Often employing the material embodiments of various genres and themes in a single collage, Roldan harnesses poignant aspects of shared and personal biography. His assemblage In Search For Lost Time 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 (2010) has its origins in an article on Hitler’s Berlin apartment. Based on a conviction that the interior and furnishings of the dictator’s home offer no insight into the true nature of the man, the work questions the importance of material culture in the study of anthropology. Roldan’s series of nine works titled The Beginning of History and Fatal Strategies (2011) was inspired by Jean Baudrillard’s essay “The End of History and Meaning,” which details the idea of historicity, arguing that globalization precipitated the dissolution of history and the collapse of progress. Each work is a collection of curios, old perfumes bottles, compact cases, amulets, and old photographs displayed in wood and glass cabinets, recalling a past that is fabricated by an attempt to create a sense of order from forgotten memories. Focusing on Baudrillard’s criticism of Marxist ideology as misguided fantasy, Roldan’s series itself presents no political judgment or conclusion, but seeks instead to simply pit history against reality.
Roldan has had solo exhibitions at Hiraya Gallery, Manila (1987, 1994, and 1999); Artspace, Sydney (1989); Green Papaya, Manila (2001 and 2005); Charles Darwin University Gallery, Darwin, Australia (2003); Alliance Française, Manila (2004); Magnet Gallery, Manila (2007); MO Space, Manila (2008); Pablo Fort, Manila (2009); Taksu, Kuala Lumpur (2009); Taksu, Singapore (2009, 2011, and 2012); Silverlens, Manila (2010); Now Gallery, Manila (2011 and 2012); and Vulcan Artbox, Waterford, Ireland (2012). He has participated in numerous group exhibitions including New Art from Southeast Asia, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum and Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (1992); Identities versus Globalisation, Chiang Mai University Art Museum, National Gallery, Bangkok, and Dahlem Museum, Berlin (2003–04); Flippin’ Out: Maynila to Williamsburg, Goliath Visual Space, Brooklyn (2005); No Soul for Sale, Tate Modern, London (2010); and Negotiating Home, History and Nation: Two Decades of Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia, 1991–2010, Singapore Art Museum (2011). Roldan lives and works in Manila.