Unreal Estates | commissions for new work about home

Deadline: 28/02/2021

City: Leeds, Norwich, Thanet and Bristol  |  Region: West Yorkshire  |  Country: United Kingdom  |  Amanda Lwin

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Open call for new painting and writing based on home.

Unreal Estates is a project that commissions new work about domestic interiors and ideas of home. We are looking for artists (primarily working in 2D) and writers interested in collaboratively producing new work that responds to these themes.

We will pair up artists and writers to work in pairs to produce a series of images and text/s responding to homes in their local area. Eventually we would like to tour the whole of the UK; for now, we are focussing on these 4 areas:

  • Leeds
  • Bristol
  • Norwich
  • Thanet

Participants should have a strong connection with one of these places, ideally living or working here. If you are interested in the project but do not live in one of these areas, please apply stating places you would like to respond to and we will store your application for future reference.

How does it work?

Each visual artist works in collaboration with a writer. Responding to a property advertised for sale in the local area, the artist/writer pair works together to create an interpretation, story or narrative about these listed properties, expressed through a series of paintings and a short text.

The first iteration was funded by ACE. We are seeking to inform a further application for funding, which requires specific information about artists being commissioned. If funding is successful, contributors to the project will be paid a participation fee.

The first show was in a high street estate agents as well as online. We hope to replicate this format, however, the current circumstances make it difficult to look for a suitable venue. When restrictions change we will seek a location for the physical exhibition.

Please read the FAQs and browse the website before applying.

View our website

View the most recent exhibition


Contact the curator
Who is eligible for this opportunity?
Artists (primarily working in 2D) and writers with a strong connection to Leeds, Bristol, Norwich or Thanet.
I saw this opportunity before. Why has it been republished?
We received many excellent applications in the last round, however an imbalance between applications from writers and artists in some locations. We are reopening applications in hope of correcting this disparity, however the timeline will not change so please submit your applications as soon as possible.
Is this opportunity paid?
If ACE funding is successful, a participation fee paid to contributors. If ACE funding is not successful we will contact you to see if you are still interested in taking part.
What kind of work should I submit?
Writers: Short stories and flash fiction preferred, poetry is also acceptable. We will not read more than 500 words of a text (unless it's really good)

Artists: 2D work, or 3D work that may be hung on walls. In the past we have focussed on painting but we are open to other relevant ideas.
Your submitted images do not have to be of interiors / exteriors, but it will help us imagine what your response will be.
It's useful to browse the website to see what we have commissioned in the past.
Digital work may be considered.
Where is the exhibition?
The exhibition is online and IRL. When COVID restrictions allow, we will look to see if a local estate agency will host the show as in our previous iteration.
Will you be adding new locations?
Yes we hope so. You can apply now, but the best way to hear about new calls is to join our mailing list.
You can also follow us on social media:
Can I enter via video?
We welcome submissions using alternative media from people who find filling traditional application forms difficult. Please email homes@unreal-estates.org for the list of questions as a PDF.
Give me more background?
The show is inspired in part by the concept of ‘Airspace’ – the idea that interiors are becoming more and more homogenised due to our fascination with ‘apartment-porn’ on sites like Airbnb, Instagram and Pinterest. Together, the gathered works are a subtle comment on the state of the property market and the trend of property as investment, rather than a place where lives are lived: reasserting the subtleties, emotions and intrigues found in domestic settings. Unreal Estates reaffirms the basic human need of a house as shelter; a space of personal rather than of monetary value.

In the poetics of Gaston Bachelard, the house represents a primary universe - an archive of meanings produced through the inhabitation of mundane spaces. Indeed, in cities worldwide, regular housing stock can be decades or even centuries old. Beyond the aesthetic choices of its current residents, ghostly mythologies are unwittingly embedded in the fabric of a building - ceiling roses, hearths, mouldings, staircases - hinting at a layered richness beyond today’s inhabitation.

However, over the past half-century, successive governments have instituted policy that has moved the concept of housing from being a sanctuary or resource, towards a purely financial asset: a technocratic and neo-liberal attitude that – amongst other outcomes – reinforces Nimbyism, erodes social housing, and contributes to rising homelessness.

Unreal Estates proposes varied and multi-layered ways of challenging an asset-led understanding of the urban landscape: the house as a place of sanctuary but also confinement; the idea of home – representing domestic bliss but also ennui; and interior aesthetics – fantasies of self-expression, simultaneously articulating the boundaries of class/national identity. The project reasserts the basic human need of a house as shelter; a space of personal rather than of monetary value; a place of mysteries hidden behind closed doors.
What is the timeline for the project?
A loose outline which may change according to circumstances:
February 2021: Visual artists & writers are introduced and begin their conversations.
July 2021: Presentations of work online
From October 2021, possibly later: physical exhibitions, to coincide with local event calendar.

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