Heroes or Villains?

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich

Curated by the UEA museology students, this collection of artefacts is entertaining and engaging. It explores societies' need to project dreams on to heroes and to demonise villains.

Referring back to ancient Greece, the cult of the hero parallels warrior legend Herakles and David Beckham. But two news-cutting collages show adoration to be precarious and illustrate the ease with which public fury is unleashed.

A variety of media is used to highlight how the actions of political leaders provoke differing responses. Margaret Thatcher is portrayed by Helmut Lang as the coiffured Iron Lady, whereas a Spitting Image character casts her as a ridiculed harridan.

The video footage of Tony Blair's election victory testifies to optimistic public excitement, but is displayed in contrast to student union placards protesting against top-up fees.

Perhaps most challenging are the photographs of Hitler, propagandising him as a popular statesman.

The content challenges a range of preconceptions and the interpretation is layered for wide audience appeal.

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The viewer is encouraged to explore the subtleties of the middle ground and there's some fascinating archive material of suffragettes, initially perceived as a threat to public order.

Plus a bold painting of Fidel Castro, showing him as a defiant revolutionary leader, resisting American domination.

The exhibition also demonstrates how history can transform the context of deeds, with Carlo Cignani's gloriously romanticised depiction of Mary Magdalene's elevation from prostitute to penitent.

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