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Dark Skies/Blue Skies: Call for Proposals

Artist Call for Proposals, 21.02.18

The Cultural Spring and NEPN invite proposals from a lead artist, collective or arts organisation for an innovative participatory project with and for the people of Sunderland.
The commission is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.  Please download the full brief Dark Skies Blue Skies Call for Proposals

Main Purpose and Aims

The project will see high-quality photographic artists working with community members to imagine and give creative form to future-facing aspirations through publicly sited artworks and/or publications. The project aims to create confident cultural activists who recognise their own creative potential.

The project is inspired by the creative and scientific desire to explore the world and understand our place in it, and by the wish to imaginatively explore the future. We are particularly keen to receive innovative proposals that fuse currents of creativity shared by science, technology and photography. Proposals could incorporate a journey through early traditional photographic process as a means to record and imagine the world (photo-grams, cyanotypes, stereo-grams) as well as contemporary photographic technologies such as mobile phones with which we share and communicate our lived experiences.

This commission will be developed through community consultation, using a collaborative methodology and shared sense of ownership of the project. We will commission an artist(s) for whom social engagement is integral to their approach.

Project outcomes should be:

  • Innovative and ambitious in scope
  • of the highest artistic quality
  • Relevant, diverse and inclusive for the communities of Sunderland

Additionally, they should:

  • Raise aspiration and represent the experiences and future hopes of Sunderland residents
  • Increase the profile of culture, specifically photography, locally, nationally and internationally.

Commission Details

May 2018 – November 2018 (7 months), with the final public event/s in November 2018

Commission Fee: The Lead Artist/Organisation fee for this commission is up to £25,000 (expected to be at least 70 days, inclusive of VAT and expenses (travel/accommodation)).

Deadline for proposals: Monday 26 March, 5pm. 

Please download the full Dark Skies/Blue Skies Call for Proposals here.



Mark Curran, The Economy of Appearances

NEPN is very pleased to announce that we are collaborating with Noorderlicht Photofestival 2015 on the further development of Mark Curran’s project THE MARKET and its installation at the festival later this month in Groningen. The Economy of Appearances will be exhibited within the Data Rush exhibition at The Old Sugar Factory, Groningen, the Netherlands: 

Update! The Economy of Appearances installation will also be shown at NY Photoville. More information HERE

‘The Economy of Appearances by Mark Curran is an elaboration of his long-term ethnographically informed transnational research project, THE MARKET, focusing on the functioning and condition of the global markets. This continues a cycle of multi-media projects beginning in the late 1990s addressing the predatory context resulting from flows and migrations of global capital.

Incorporating photographs, film, sound, artifactual material and text, themes include the algorithmic machinery of the financial markets, their absorption of crises and emergencies as normalisation of deviance, and of the long range mapping and consequences of financial activity disconnected from the circumstance of citizens and everday life. Profiled testimony has included traders, bankers and financial analysts and documentation of trading floors, exchanges in London, Dublin, Frankfurt and Addis Abeba. This installation furthers the enquiry with new research, extending to Amsterdam (site of the oldest exchange in the world) and the new financial district of Zuidas, and into the heart of the highly complex nature of the international trading culture, against the evolutionary backdrop of volatile global capitalism in flux and transition.

Curran filmed in the new financial district on the southern periphery of the Dutch capital – a global centre for algorithmic trading. Adapted from a text by former trader and now financial activist, Brett Scott, which examines High Frequency Trading (HFT) and how the input of human values, are excluded, the voiceover and title of the film are inspired by Scott’s essay, ‘Algorithmic Surrealism’. The film suggests the hegemony of HFT and the extinction of human reason or intelligence – human strengths that also include traits such as empathy and ethical behaviour – in Market decisions will both perpetuate and render more extreme the power relations of minority wealth in globalised capitalist systems.

This focus on Amsterdam also arises out of the Netherlands’ pivotal role in the global Shadow Banking system, where officers play prominent and conflicting parts in current Euro Zone financial manoeuvres, for example simultaneously facilitating the flight of capital from Greece whilst scolding the Greek system for lax tax regimes. The photographs, titles and their means of presentation allude, in an allegorical sense, to such circumstance. As with previous installations, the soundscape in Groningen, also transforms data using an algorithm to identify the application of the words, ’market’ and/or ‘markets’ in the public speeches by the relevant national Minister of Finance, in this case, the Dutch Minister for Finance and President of the Eurozone Group, Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

The anthropologist and former Banker, Karen Ho, in her ethnographic research of the culture of Wall Street, uses the phrase ‘economy of appearances’ in her argument that banking culture consciously nurtures the very production of crises while simultaneously, ensuring its rescue – this culture builds on characteristics such as anxiety, exhaustion, high risk and high rewards, capitalising on humanity’s limits and weaknesses.

The installation further activates the popular graphic representation of such circumstance through the intervention of a 3D visualisation of the algorithmically-generated data of the soundscape – ‘The Economy Of Appearances’ – in summation, representing the functioning of contemporary financial capital through the conduit of the nation state, in this case, the Netherlands.’

Text by Helen Carey

Algorithm Design & Sound Composition Ken Curran
3D Data Visualisation Damien Byrne
Film Editor Lidia Rossner
Voice Claudia Schäfer


Mark Curran is an artist researcher & educator who lives & works in Berlin & Dublin. He holds a practice-led PhD from the Dublin Institute of Technology, is Lecturer on the BA (Hons) Photography programme, Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT), Dublin and is Visiting Professor on the MA in Visual & Media Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin. Incorporating multi-media installation informed by ethnographic understandings, since 1998, Curran has undertaken a cycle of long-term research projects, critically addressing the predatory context resulting from the migrations and flows of global capital. These have been extensively published and exhibited, including DePaul Art Museum, Chicago (2010), Encontros da Imagem, Braga (2011), PhotoIreland, Dublin (2012), Grimmuseum, Berlin (2013) & FORMAT, Derby (2013). Curran has also presented widely most recently McGill University, Montreal (2014), Royal Anthropological Institute, London (2015) & University of Ljubljana (2015). Supported by Arts Council of Ireland & curated by Helen Carey, THE MARKET continues the cycle & focuses on the functioning & condition of the global markets. It has been presented at Gallery of Photography, Dublin (2013), Belfast Exposed Gallery (2013) & Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris (2014). In addition to his NEPN commissioned presentation at Noorderlicht, an extensive installation will open at the Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA), Ireland in Autumn 2015. A full publication of THE MARKET is planned.

Research Blog THE MARKET:


Image: Financial Surrrealism (WTC), Zuidas Financial District, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2015 ©Mark Curran


Julian Germain, Newborns

18 September – 16 October 2015. Opening Friday 18 September 5-10pm.
The Fire Station, High Street West, Sunderland

To coincide with the launch of Sunderland’s intention to bid for UK City of Culture 2021, Julian Germain has been photographing babies born on Wearside this summer.  As representatives of Sunderland’s newest residents, the photographs not only ask us to consider the mystery of being human, but also the mystery of the future, what will it hold for them?

‘I recently discovered that it is possible, with concentration, patience and some luck to make portraits of babies within only a few days of birth. I do not simply mean pictures (admittedly charming), but actual photographic portraits, where they are looking intensely and directly into the lens, despite the fact that they are virtually blind, helpless and have barely any control over their limbs. They are unformed. At that age we don’t know what colour their eyes will become.  If it can be captured, the young life behind their gaze is surely the most mysterious of all.

So many questions are raised. How can we possibly imagine what they are imagining?  How will they turn out? What does the future hold for them?

As adults, we are also presented with a serious challenge, because we are responsible for the world they will grow up in.’ Julian Germain July 2015

Newborns is commissioned by NEPN and the Northern Centre of Photography at the University of Sunderland in partnership with the MAC Trust.  Supported by University of Sunderland and Arts Council England through Grants for the arts.

Image: Freyja Molly, 6 days ©Julian Germain



BlackLab Commission

19 – 23 September 2012, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival

BlackLab (Mishka Henner and David Oates) present their newly commissioned work ‘Photographers’ which will be shown throughout the 8th edition of Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival at Shoregate Ice House and receive its world premiere on the occasion of the Festival Opening Gala on Wednesday 19 September at 7pm in the Maltings Theatre.

BlackLab will deliver a talk about the work on Saturday 22 September.  For more information please visit:

‘Photographers’ is commissioned by NEPN in partnership with Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival.

BlackLab, from Photographers (2012)

Laura Guy Commission Event

4 October 2012, 7.30pm
The Lit & Phil (Music Room)
Newcastle upon Tyne

This Table an Aperture: an illuminated lecture developed by Laura Guy in response to The Lit & Phil as part of a research residency supported by NEPN.

Places are free but booking is required. Please email to secure your place.

BlackLab selected for new commission

NEPN and Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival are pleased to announce that Mishka Henner and David Oates (known collectively as BlackLab) have been awarded a funded commission to create a new work for this year’s Festival, which runs 19-23 September 2012.

Responding to a call for proposals issued by NEPN and the Festival in March, BlackLab were selected from an extremely competitive field of over 100 applications.  All proposals responded to the Festival’s theme for this year, Pictures in Motion, which explores the relationship between the still image and the moving image, with applications coming from artists working across both photography and film.

From BlackLab’s proposal ‘It is possible to imagine a future in which the idea of the photographer is redundant; an age in which the ubiquity of images leads to the end of the photographic author as we know it. BlackLab’s film will excavate the nostalgic idea of the photographer as recorded in stills, literature, moving images, documentaries and archive footage. Sifting through this material, the result will be a montage composed of visual and auditory quotations from famous and obscure sources; a meditation on the end of the individual auteur in a society of mass observation.’

BlackLab’s previous films include Trawling the Visual Wreckage, a film that channel hops through cinematic and found video footage exploring the themes of love and destruction told through a montage of works by Michelangelo Antonini, Werner Herzog, Frederico Fellini and others.   Their second film, Cosmodrome, places Yuri Gagarin’s first flight into space in the context of the Soviet Union’s rise from agricultural state to technological superpower. Inspired by the work of Tarkovsky, the film juxtaposes works by the Soviet Space Agency, legendary Soviet film-makers such as Vertov and Eisenstein, as well as historical television footage.

BlackLab is a collaboration between David Oates and Mishka Henner. Their works are characterised by an interplay of soundtracks, speeches, and scenes from various found sources. Their technique scours literary, film, and documentary sources from online and offline archives. An initial process of gathering materials leads to an editing process in which this material is cut up, juxtaposed and re-imagined to produce a new composition. Their first film, Trawling the Visual Wreckage, recently featured at the 2012 Dallas Biennial and they have curated events at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, England.

Thank you to everyone who applied for this opportunity.

Call for Proposals – New commission with Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival

Penumbra at the Granary 2011

Penumbra, Gareth Hudson & Jack Burton, 2011

We are delighted to announce a new commission opportunity in partnership with Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, to be presented as part of the Festival programme, 19th – 23rd September 2012.

We have invited proposals from artists who are working across moving image and photography, or who have moved from one practice to the other, while the new commission will explore the overlapping terrains of moving and still images.

Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival returns for its eighth annual celebration of the art of film – once again illuminating the whole town through screenings, installations and projections, in locations across Berwick-upon-Tweed and along the Town Walls, and capturing the imaginations of thousands from the North East & Scottish Borders and across the UK.

The selected proposal will be awarded £2,500 to cover artist fees and all production costs. In addition, the AV equipment needed to exhibit the work will be provided, as will technical help with install, and accommodation for the artist during the Festival.

The commission is supported equally by Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, with thanks to Arts Council England, and by the North East Photography Network through support from the University of Sunderland.


The Festival is also still accepting moving image submissions until 29th June, with an ‘Early Bird’ deadline of 2nd April,

Research Residency Opportunity

Image from Belfast Exposed Archive

Image from Belfast Exposed Archive

The North East Photography Network (NEPN), in partnership with Belfast Exposed Gallery, is offering a research residency opportunity for a photographic artist from the North East of England.  Interesting parallels between the industrial, economic and social histories of Newcastle and Belfast can be drawn and both cities and regions have a rich photographic history and a strong tradition of photographers developing relationships with the city and its inhabitants.

Proposals are sought from photographers who are interested to explore their own interpretation of ‘socially-engaged practice’ in the context of Belfast and the long history of photographers who have worked in the city and with its communities.

Founded in 1983 as a community photography initiative, Belfast Exposed Photography now functions as a gallery for contemporary photography with emphasis on commissioning and publication of new work. It holds a community photography archive and runs an extensive educational outreach network.
The production of socially and politically engaged work and dialogue is the driving force behind all aspects of the Belfast Exposed project.    The North East Photography Network was set up in 2009 to develop and promote photography in the North East of England. The region has a reputation for producing high-quality photographers and has supported a diverse range of practices.  NEPN’s aim is to build on this history, providing a context for the future development of the region’s photographic culture. NEPN engage with a broad range of contemporary photography, including documentary and photojournalism alongside lens-based visual arts practice. NEPN current research interest is the relationship between the photographer and the public, exploring notions of socially engaged practice and the intersections where photography and the public interact.
Photographers should consider what they could bring from their own practice to contribute to this dialogue.


A space to work from will be provided by Belfast Exposed. The selected artist will have access to chemical and digital darkroom facilities at the University of Sunderland. The selected artist will be asked to make an introductory talk/ presentation to be delivered at the gallery’s ‘Exchange Space’.  The photographer will also be expected to present a work in progress in Belfast and in North East England.


Applicants should maximize the benefit of the opportunity presented and view it as an experimental platform from which to develop a new line of enquiry or body of work.   Photographers should think about how to make the best us of the knowledge, history and resources available.

Applicants should be able to undertake the opportunity between April- September 2012 and initial research visits will need to be undertaken by June. A £3000 award is available to incorporate artist fees, materials and all expenses.  We are not able to accept applications from those undertaking studies at undergraduate level.

A proposal of a maximum of two pages is required which should briefly outline your intended area of enquiry and how this opportunity would benefit your practice.  You should also include a CV and up to 5 images representative of you work, which should be sent as jpegs and must be a max of 72dpi.

It is anticipated that a project would develop over a period of a few months to allow for natural development and reflection and we would not expect applicants to spend long block periods of time in Belfast.  Initial research visits will need to be undertaken in May/June to maximise the resources and support available.

Deadline for submissions:  9 March 2012, 5pm.


Applications should be emailed to:

Download this information as a pdf

This opportunity is supported by the National Lottery through Grants for the arts, University of Sunderland and Belfast Exposed Gallery.

BelfastExposed logoCWP0001

Photographic responses to The Lit & Phil: reading group session – 29 November

Dawn Lehrer, The Silence Room

Dawn Felicia Knox, The Silence Room

An NEPN reading group session will take place on Tuesday 29 November 2011 at 17.30 in the Loftus Room of the Lit & Phil, Newcastle upon Tyne.   We will hear from artists Dawn Felicia Knox and Laura Guy about their NEPN commissions in progress with the Library and Society, and from Donna-Lisa Healey who is currently creating a series of photographic portraits of society members.   We will be joined by Chair of The LIt & Phil board Paul Gailiunas.

All are welcome to join us though places are limited. If you are hoping to attend please email: to let us know.


Commission Opportunity in partnership with The Lit & Phil


NEPN is offering a series of seed/development commissioning opportunities for photographic artists to develop their professional practice, supported by NEPN and its regional partners.

NEPN is looking to develop its partnership with The Lit & Phil by offering a commission opportunity for photographic artists who are based in the North East region.

The Literary & Philosophical Society (Lit & Phil) is the largest independent library outside London, housing over 150,000 books. A wide selection of current fiction and non-fiction can be found alongside historical collections covering every field of interest.

We are calling for proposals from photographers who are particularly interested to develop their practice in relation to historical and social contexts.  The Lit & Phil has a rich history as an institution, the Society was founded in 1793 as a ‘conversation club’ and the building was opened in 1825. The Society and building has been closely associated with key pioneers of science, literature and the arts throughout its history and today provides unique resources for readers from the general public and the research community.


Fees of £1800 are available for the selected practitioner, plus a materials budget of up to £400.


Application Process

Applicants should submit a CV and a short proposal (up to a max of 750 words) of how you would approach this commission, detailing your research interests and how these relate to The Lit & Phil, and how the commission would benefit your practice.   Up to 5 images of recent work should be sent as jpegs and should be a max of 72dpi.

We are not able to accept applications from those undertaking studies at undergraduate level.  Applicants should be based in the North East region.

The commission should be undertaken between May-September 2011.

Applications should be sent by email to: with a copy to:

The deadline for receipt of applications is 6 May 2011.

The outcome of applications will be communicated by week beginning 16 May 2011.  NEPN, The Lit & Phil and regional curatorial and creative partners will undertake selection.  For more information, email: