Application Advice: We Tell You How To Tell Us You’re Great

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Heather Marshall & co. performing Desperation Bingo at Anatomy 11: Kerching! Three people are sprinting towards a microphone: each wears very spangly trousers, a colourful cone hat, and a white t-shirt with a competitor number on it. They’re tussling as they run: number three is winning and looks astonished.

As ANATOMY sources all of the performances and artists through open call-out, and we see the same things happening in those applications again and again, we thought it would be useful to put together a brief set of hints on the sorts of things we look for in applications, what the most common pitfalls are, and how you can best tell us how great you are.

So here is some aplication advice to bear in mind that should help you complete an application, whether that is for ANATOMY or some other, equally fantastic art platform. These are things that should probably be applicable to other applications you make, but do remember that curating an event or art happening is a personal and subjective thing — yours could be the most virtuosic practice, framed in the most excellent application, but if it isn’t the right fit for us, it might still not make the cut for our shows.

Basically, all we want is a good idea that fits the night, and enough information to be confident that you—and we—can pull it off.

1.    Complete the application form

No, seriously, complete the application form. You’d be amazed at how many people just fill in their personal details and leave the rest blank. There is nothing we can do with that. Others only complete half the application form and leave the most important questions blank. Perhaps you are leaving that section until later to complete, but if you submit your application before you go back and finish it off, then there’s nothing we can do.

Similarly, if you want to mess about with the formatting to make your application look all jazzy and funky—that’s great, we love that shenaniganing—just make sure it will display ok on someone else’s computer. And not come out BLANK.

2.    Tell us what you’re going to do

This is the most important question of the application form, it’s the one we go to first. If you absolutely have to leave one question blank, make sure it’s not this one. We spent many call-out cycles trialing different wordings for this but we simply can’t make it any clearer: Tell us EXACTLY what happens on stage.

It’s great that you can talk and think about your work in abstract, academic terms, it really is. We don’t want to stop you doing that, but do it once you’ve told us EXACTLY what happens on stage. Do two people enter from opposite ends of the stage and pour paint over themselves while reciting all the proper nouns in order from the Tremors TV-series scripts? Ok, whatever, just tell us that. Save the surprise and shock for the audience, not for potential programmers.

If your work is deeply entrenched in some obscure Transylvanian punk-offshoot of neo-transhumanism or a particular burlesque dancer from Louisiana who did one spectacular routine before disappearing mysteriously, great, but you still need to tell us EXACTLY what happens on stage. Between the three of us, we have a fairly vast understanding and knowledge of stage and performance, but we might not know what you mean when you say, simply, that you are going to perform “in the style of X”. We definitely won’t know what you mean if you just give us a long list of abstract nouns and nothing else. (This has been done. More than once.)

We ask this because there’s no better way for us to understand your piece than to be able to picture it, to some degree, in our heads. You can achieve this in just two or three well-written sentences explaining the action of the piece. And doing this will help us see how all your big and wonderful abstract ideas (which we also love) will actually be achieved.

If you don’t know exactly what you’re going to do, because your work is still in progress, that’s OK! We do accept in-progress pieces. In this case, give us an idea or a guess of what sorts of things you might do, and a very clear picture of what your development process will be to get there.

3.    Are there other people involved in this piece? Why are they not on the application form?

We love cross-platform stuff. It’s great that you say your piece has three separate screens showing live manipulation of visuals, but if you don’t mention how, or who, is going to be doing this, we have to think of it as an afterthought, and therefore, not a well thought out proposal.

4.    Not got loads of experience? Don’t sweat it!

We don’t expect everyone to come to us already massively experienced, with a track record of five-star reviews and HD video footage filmed from three different angles. That’s ok, don’t sweat it. If you have a great idea and we believe in you, then we don’t mind if there is no supporting information. But sometimes, if an application is on the fence, a video or photograph can really swing it. It’s 2016, you probably have a decent camera and video on your phone or have a friend who does — take five minutes to record yourself doing something. If nothing else, it will be fun and put a smile on our face.

5.    Not already our friend? So what!

Naturally, we have lots of friends who work with performance, and inevitably we host some of them. We love our friends and we love to work with them; but we love to meet new people and to make new friends. We actively want acts from people we have not worked with before.

Last event, the pals-to-newbies ratio was exactly the same in the application pile and in the eventual programme (that is, 28% of applications were from artists who worked with us before, and 28% of our eventual programme were artists we’d worked with before).

If you have worked with us before, don’t get complacent. Your advantage is that we will be confident you can pull of good work, so you can relax a bit on the supporting documentation; your disadvantage is that we’re going to look at your application with extra-critical eyes. Make sure your idea is strong, that you’ve thought through your piece, and that you’ve properly explained to us what it is.

6.    Not sure what to include and what to leave out? Drop the bullshit.

The bullshitter is someone whose principal aim — when uttering or publishing bullshit — is to impress the listener and the reader with words that communicate an impression that something is being or has been done, words that are neither true nor false, and so obscure the facts of the matter being discussed.”

We don’t like bullshit. We are artists, which means we’ve written a lot of puff and bullshit about our own work, and so we can generally detect it in other people’s

We have a low tolerance for International Art English, and we really like very clearly-written applications. Other programmers may prefer you to huff and puff and blow smoke rings of gibberish, but not us.

Be brave with your application. We like jokes in applications. We like people who do unusual things with their application formats. We like clarity, but we also like humour.

We like to know what stage of the development process you’re at. Don’t talk up a piece as finished if it’s not; similarly, don’t pretend you’re giving us a unique offer if you’ve performed it seventeen times before. We will notice. We programme work at all stages of development, but we want to know where you’re at.

We are cross-platform, genre-busting programmers. We want to know you’re pushing at the boundaries of a performance form, or blending forms that don’t usually get blended. If you’re not doing this, don’t apply (see also: don’t bullshit), but also, take this as a challenge to expand your work!

8. Still confused? Need help?

Ask us! We always respond. But please email us at rather than through Facebook, especially personal Facebook accounts: you’ll get a better response.

9. Good luck!

We want you to be good, and will read you with clear but charitable eyes. Give us your best: you have ours.

PS. Spelling and grammar are important, but they won’t  make or break your application.

These things slip through sometimes. As long as the meaning is clear, you’ll be fine.

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