Call for Artists – Provocation Series at the 2020 IGNITE! Festival of Emerging Artists

Call for Artists – Provocation Series

at Sage Theatre’s 2020 IGNITE! Festival, June 10-13, 2020

Swallow-a-Bicycle is thrilled to host a third iteration of the Provocation Series at the IGNITE! Festival of Emerging Artists, after successful editions in 2018 and 2019! We’re accepting applications to participate from now until Saturday, February 15, 2020 at 11:59 pm.

Please see below for key information about the Provocation Series and the IGNITE! Festival.

What is the Provocation Series?

Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre’s Provocation Series offers mentorship and performance opportunities for emerging artists who want to push creative boundaries, and ask bold questions about art and society. 

The Provocation Series is one of several series at the IGNITE! Festival of Emerging Artists (including the Theatre, Dance, Improv, Interdisciplinary and Club Series). The festival runs June 10-13, 2020.

The IGNITE! Festival is dedicated to supporting, mentoring and presenting early career artists of all disciplines. IGNITE! allows artists to embrace risks in a supportive environment while providing resources, a bridge to the professional arts community, and meaningful opportunities for collaboration and community building with their peers.

If you feel like your work doesn’t really fit in the other series, or you want to do something experimental, political, disruptive or challenging, the Provocation Series may be the right place for you! Our priority is work that aligns with Swallow-a-Bicycle’s Art Manifesto, and we welcome different interpretations of and approaches to the Manifesto.

What mentorship and performance/exhibition opportunities does it offer?

Artists in the Provocation Series will:

  • participate in three “influencer artist” workshops, where professional artists will offer perspectives and tools that Provocation Series artists can use to inspire and shape their creations.
  • be paired with a professional artist (likely from the Swallow-a-Bicycle team), who will offer support through the development, rehearsal and production process; and
  • perform or exhibit their work as part of the IGNITE! Festival of Emerging Artists, June 10-13, 2020.

Who is eligible to apply?

The IGNITE! Festival is geared towards early career artists under the age of 30 or within 3 years of graduating from post-secondary, working in any discipline, who are pursuing a professional career in the arts.

… but if that doesn’t describe you, and you still think this is a great opportunity for you, drop us a line at or 403.710.0093 and we can chat about it!

Artists of colour, indigenous artists, artists with disabilities and/or artists from LGBTQ2+ communities are heartily encouraged to apply to the Provocation Series, and to all streams of the IGNITE! Festival.

What kind of performance/exhibition would be a good fit for the Provocation Series?

Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre has an Art Manifesto that provides a lens for everything that we do:

Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre creates productive discomfort. We engage with power structures, shining an interrogation light in society’s eyes.

We endanger the eardrums of the status quo by amplifying the voices of outcasts, misfits, diverse communities and artists who face barriers.

We hold ourselves accountable for the discomfort we create, to the communities we encounter, and to ethical working practices.

Art is how we do this. Art is awesome, and fun to make.

We learn and mutate as we engage with different sites, communities and artistic practices.

We don’t just swallow bicycles. We swallow complacency, conventions, problematic issues and sometimes cookies.

If you see yourself in this Manifesto and want to make work that aligns with it, that’s a great start! Please keep in mind that “productive discomfort” can mean many different things – maybe it’s the form of your work that’s experimental, alternative and boundary-pushing, or maybe the content is dealing with something edgy, political or marginal. Or both!

Similarly, “performance” and “exhibition” can mean many things, and we encourage applicants to let your imaginations run wild! What do you want to make, at this moment in your artistic development? Some approaches could include theatre (narrative or post-dramatic), performance art, dance, installation, cyber art… and we’re open to surprises!

You can apply with a mostly-finished work, or the seed of an idea you want to develop. Our main selection criteria include:

  • Does this align with Swallow-a-Bicycle’s Art Manifesto?
  • Is this a better fit with the Provocation Series than with other series in the IGNITE! Festival?
  • Will participation in the Provocation Series make a difference in this artist’s development and career?
  • Do Swallow-a-Bicycle and the IGNITE! Festival have the capacity to support this project?

In the Provocation Series, we care more about process than product. It’s exciting to see how ideas adapt and change from the application through to the festival!

Who are the curators and mentors?

The lead curators/mentors of the Provocation Series are Swallow-a-Bicycle’s Artistic Director, Mark Hopkins, and Artistic Associate, Bianca Guimarães de Manuel.

The Influencer Artist Workshop facilitators will be identified closer to the workshop dates, and – depending on the artists and works that end up being part of the Provocation Series – we may engage additional mentors either from the Swallow-a-Bicycle team or the broader Calgary arts community.

Bianca Guimarães de Manuel is inbituin curitiba-mohkinstsis and is an interdisciplinary artist. Besides her work with Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre, she designs costume, and scenography (sometimes lights if she is feeling up to a challenge) for dance, music, film, visual arts, and all the weird stuff that falls in between (interactive installations, performance art, and etc). She can be found lost thinking thoughts without language, sewing, and complaining about the love and hate relationship she has for technical skills as a left-handed human. 

Some of the questions Bianca asks herself are…

  • How does the English language define thoughts, structures, and value in art? 
  • How does calculating a piece’s carbon footprint impact the creative choices we make and solutions we come up with in an artistic process?
  • Could we create a piece without performers?
  • Could a space perform to audience members?
  • How can the physicality of a piece, not just its narrative, explore productive discomfort?

Bianca can be a good mentor for you if you have some intersectional interest in…

  • Throwing theatricality away to consider the encounter between audiences and scenography (or wants to use the script with the same hierarchy than the other scenic elements, considering the creation of a space your actor, and the relationship between audiences with it the performance);
  • Tired of conventional narrative and approaches to storytelling;
  • Is interested in the documentation of creative process and structured feedback methods.

Not sure of what all or many of those words mean? Shoot her an email

You can also check more of her work to see if the words will make more sense to you: > online portifolio

@beeterrabaa > instagram with digital illustrations or random stuff > if you are feeling super academic, and wants to know what expanded approaches to scenography are, or ponder about the network of collaborative process.

Mark Hopkins is one of the co-founders of Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre, going way back to 2006. Looking at the organization’s archive is a good way to get a taste of the kind of work he’s created and supported over the years.

He gets excited and inspired by the work of artists like Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company, Rimini Protokoll, Mammalian Diving Reflex, Belarus Free Theatre, Gob Squad and Hong Kong Exile, among others.

When he’s not swallowing bicycles, Mark works with Human Venture Leadership (for a glimpse into that community, you can check out his Walrus Talk from a few years ago), the Centre for Newcomers, the Energy Futures Lab and Inside Out Theatre‘s Good Host Program, and he’s done some work in politics and advocacy as well. He’s a big fan of octopuses, thanks mostly to Sy Montgomery’s book, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the World of Consciousness.

As a mentor, Mark’s specialties are narrative structure, approaches to site and space, and finding surprising connections. And when thinking about the art and artists that Swallow-a-Bicycle supports, he often goes back to Vivek Shraya’s article, “How did the suffering of marginalized artists become so marketable?“, notably its closing passage:

Marginalized artists have the right to explore our pain in our work, but it has to be our choice, not our only choice or opportunity. Because sometimes we would rather choose to write a book about raccoons.

If Bianca and Mark’s interests and approaches resonate with you… great! But if not, you’re still more than welcome to apply to the Provocation Series. These curatorial statements are just meant to help you get a sense of what we, as artists and humans, are interested in. Feel free to elaborate on our ideas, ignore them completely, or criticize them!

What do I receive as a participant in the Provocation Series?

Successful applicants, in addition to the mentorship and performance opportunities outlined above, will receive:

  • A small honorarium of $100 per participating artist – so, if you have a performer, an actor and a designer, they will each receive $100.
  • A small design budget
  • An IGNITE! Festival artist pass
  • Access to shared rehearsal spaces
  • Production support for your public performance / exhibition (venue, insurance, box office, marketing, publicity, etc.)
  • Invitations to IGNITE! networking and community events

We can be hands-on or -off for your creative process – whatever will be more useful to you. If you would like dramaturgical support, test audiences or other creative support, members of the Swallow-a-Bicycle team can be available to you. Or, we can leave you alone on your artistic journey! We are eager to discuss what and how we can support you in the most productive way for you.

What is the timeline?

These are some key dates in our anticipated timeline for Provocation Series 2020, though things may shift as we approach the festival.

  • Saturday, February 15, 2020 – Provocation Series application deadline at 11:59 pm
  • Friday, February 28, 2020 – Applicants notified of results
  • Thursday, March 19, 2020 – Influencer Artist Workshop #1 (evening)
  • Saturday, March 28, 2020 – Influencer Artist Workshop #2 (afternoon)
  • Wednesday, April 8, 2020 – Influencer Artist Workshop #3 (evening)
  • June 6-9, 2020 – Installations, tech and dress rehearsals
  • June 10-13, 2020 – IGNITE! Festival of Emerging Artists

There will also be at least one meeting for all artists participating in the IGNITE! Festival, date(s) TBA.

Where will the Provocation Series take place?

The IGNITE! Festival is centred around the Pumphouse Theatre in the community of Sunalta, on the west end of Calgary’s downtown. The Provocation Series has access to theatre and studio spaces in the West Village Theatre, EMMEDIA and the Pumphouse Theatre, and we can also support performances or exhibitions in the surrounding area, including Pumphouse Park and other public spaces in and around Sunalta.

What if I don’t live in Calgary?

We’d love to see your application, but do not have a budget for travel or accommodations. If your application is successful, however, we would be happy to support travel grant applications.

How do I apply?

We’re accepting applications through this online form until Saturday, February 15, 2020 at 11:59 pm.

What if this kind of application doesn’t work for me?

If you’re interested in applying but this application process creates a barrier, please contact us via phone (403.710.0093), email ( or snail mail (#4 714 5A St NW, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1R4) so we can figure out something that works for you.

Thank you!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at or 403.710.0093.

Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre is based in Moh’kins’tsis, the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) name for the place we now call Calgary, located in the Treaty 7 region and the traditional lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy (including the Siksika, Piikani and Kainai First Nations), the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda (including the Chiniki, Bearspaw and Wesley First Nations). The City of Calgary is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III. We’re grateful to the past, present and future stewards of this land.