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Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre logo

Discomfort Lab

Discomfort Lab is a paid artistic residency in Calgary for artists to incubate original performance creations. At the end of the residency, artists will share their work with public audiences.

For the April 2019 edition, we will commission three new performance creations. At least one will be Indigenous-led, and at least one will be led by artists based outside of Calgary.

We are interested in the questions that are important to you, now, and that—may be because the content or form is uncomfortable or unconventional—you haven’t found space to explore. The work should align with Swallow-a-Bicycle’s Art Manifesto.

The residency dates will be from April 15 to 28, 2019. The successful artists will have access to a found space in downtown Calgary to create work from April 15 to 25, 2019 and the work will be performed for public audiences from April 26 to 28, 2019.

This is the second edition of Discomfort Lab; the first was in November 2017!

What do you mean by Performance?

We are interested in a variety of performances. What does the word mean to you, at this moment of your career?

Some performance approaches that interest us include:

  • Theatre (narrative or post-dramatic)
  • Performance art
  • Participatory performances (where audience members perform)
  • Community-based or social art
  • Dance
  • Video-art installation
  • Cyber performances
  • Sonic art

… but we’re open to surprises! We encourage artists to push boundaries and to explore productive discomfort in the form or content of an art piece, or both. We are excited to see a wide range of formats, from experimental to mainstream!

How long should my Piece be?

For the public performances from April 26 to 28, 2019, we imagine pieces that are 15 to 20 minutes long, but we’re open to other durations or formats. If you have a different format you would like to explore, don’t hesitate to contact us to chat about it by emailing

What is the Timeline?
  • January 28, 2019: Application deadline
  • February 8, 2019: Successful applicants notified
  • April 15 – 25, 2019: Creation residency
  • April 26 – 28, 2019: Public performances (times TBA)

Between February 9 to April 14, 2019, there will also be at least one meeting to introduce the participating artists.

What is Swallow-A-Bicycle’s Art Manifesto?

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.

To apply please email your submission to with the header Discomfort Lab Submission.

Application Deadline: Monday, January 28, 2019, at 6:00pm MST

In your submission, please include:

  • A description of your artistic practice.
  • Any initial ideas you may have for the piece or prompted by the guidelines provided above.
  • An artistic resume for each team member.
  • You may also submit additional materials, including photos, videos, writing samples, surprises.
What if this kind of Application does not work for me? 

If you are interested in applying but these requirements create a barrier, please contact us via phone 403.710.0093, or email or post (#4 714 5A St. NW) so we can figure out something that works for you.

How Much Money will I be Paid for this Residency?

The fee will be $3,000 CND for the whole period, per artist or group.

This is the entire fee, and it will be up to the successful artists/groups to divide it among material expenses, artist fees and other costs. We encourage you to make a budget to make the best use of the funds and how they work best for you.

Can a Group of Artists apply? How will that Affect the Payment?

Yes! You can apply in a group. However, the total payment of $3,000 will be given to the group, who will decide how to divide the money.

What if I live in Another City?

Please apply! We want to encourage dialogue between different cities/provinces and territories/countries at the Discomfort Lab, and one slot is reserved for artists based outside of Calgary.

We have a budget set aside for transportation, accommodation and other travel expenses; our intention is to cover all travel expenses, though this will depend on where you’re coming from and how many people are travelling. If we cannot cover the full costs, we will happily support travel grant applications.

How will Swallow-a-Bicycle help me?

Besides what has been previously mentioned, we will produce and advertise the residency performances, so that you can focus on your art practice.

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 provide access to space and 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.

If you have any other questions, suggestions, or concerns, please email us or call 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 territories 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.