#Revisit | Norberto Roldan's 'F-16'

#Revisit We are looking back on Norberto Roldan’s diptych, F-16, which was exhibited in the group show, No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. This exhibition, which took place from 22 February – 22 May 2013, featured a diverse range of contemporary art practices that disputed romanticised perceptions of the region.

Departing from his famed assemblages of found objects, Roldan adopted a painterly approach to the work he presented in this exhibition. F-16 is a diptych that marries imagery and text, paralleling the colonisation of the Philippines with a globally relevant event of the period, Operation Enduring Freedom.

For the right panel of F-16, Roldan lifted an excerpt from a published interview with William McKinley, where the twenty-fifth president of the United States attempted to rationalise the country’s American occupation: ‘[the Filipino people] are unfit for self-government [...] there was nothing left for us to do but take them all; and to educate them and uplift and civilize and Christianize them.’ Roldan juxtaposed McKinley’s sentiment with the image on the diptych’s adjacent panel, where an American fighter jet hovers over Afghan terrain – insinuating history repeating itself.

As the co-founder of Black Artists in Asia, Roldan’s aesthetic practice is often reflective of political, social, economic, and cultural issues. Although F-16 diverged from his customary medium, it nevertheless alluded to similar concerns, namely the cycle of retaliation and vengeance that invariably result from domination and force. Despite being separated by a century, the correlation between the two historical events referenced in F-16 transcends the particulars of Philippine history and proposes a connection to the world at large.