Gideon Obarzanek (front, centre) with Home Art participants (from left) Rachel, Paul and Georgia.
NORTH Melbourne social worker Georgia* is relieved she Googled ''Gideon Obarzanek'' after she and her housemates, Paul and Rachel, signed up for Home Art. She admits she might have been star-struck had she known she was going to be working with the former artistic director of Chunky Move dance company.
For Georgia, the initial appeal of Home Art - a quirky Melbourne City Council project that teams eight households with celebrated choreographers, musicians and writers - lay in the chance to be creative.
''All the extracurricular activities that you're offered as a child and as an adolescent … just dry up as you get older,'' she says.
This weekend, Home Art's series of intimate, low-carbon performances will take place in eight North Melbourne dwellings for an audience of family, friends and curious locals. Obarzanek is no stranger to artistic collaboration, nor to working with non-professional performers. He relishes both, and says working with dedicated volunteers on Chunky Move's 2011 Melbourne Festival show, Assembly, with the Victorian Opera ''really got me engaged again about the excitement and value of making performance work''.
Even so, he admits to being nervous at the first of four rehearsals with Georgia, Paul and Rachel. ''I was a bit terrified when we started because I thought, 'I'm not going to know what to do','' Obarzanek says. ''It's such an odd thing to do in some respects. I was actually quite nervous, and I think they were a bit nervous, too. We sat around a table and we talked about stuff, and what was surprising was how quickly it came together.''
Home Art is a delightfully lo-fi collaboration between the council and TippingPoint Australia, the arm of a Britain-based, non-profit organisation that uses local-made, low-carbon artistic projects to promote discussion about climate change. Home Art kicked off last year as a pilot program that teamed Obarzanek's partner, choreographer Lucy Guerin, with a household to create several five-minute dance pieces performed (and filmed) for a small audience.
This year's program has been expanded to eight professional artists, including musician David Bridie, playwright Michael Gurr and poet Michelle Dabrowski, and eight households including a drummer from Saudi Arabia, two deaf teenage sisters and a graphic designer with a passion for street art. The low-carbon focus means artists must travel to and from rehearsals and shows on foot or by bike, and can use only what they find in each house for lighting, music, props and costumes. Today and tomorrow, each household will perform four shows daily to an audience made mostly of family and friends (though limited public places are available). Audience members will assemble at the local primary school and be guided from house to house by ''tour guides''.
Georgia says her household's show was inspired, over several glasses of wine with Obarzanek, by the score to Fellini's film 8½⁄, the notion of voyeurism, and Paul's insistence on performing in drag. ''Paul initially had really grand ideas,'' she recalls with a laugh. ''He wanted a kind of a Greek tragedy in a suburban landscape with a gay love triangle and a murder. It was about exploring those [ideas] and not shutting anything down too soon, but also having a realistic sense of what might be possible in the [time] we had.''
For Obarzanek, the ideas and relaxed atmosphere were ''quite a relief''. ''When I'm making work, the ideas generally come from me, and people look to me to give inspiration or to make things up,'' he says. ''And here, I'm facilitating these people's ideas … and saying, 'OK, how does that make sense in a single performance?' ''
Working in a home required a refreshingly different approach.
''It's quite the opposite in some ways of what you do when you work in a rehearsal room or a studio because … [there] you start with blank place,'' he says. ''There is nothing. You're almost at a zero point, and everything you talk about and make you bring into the space, and you create. With a home, in a sense, most things are there and you have to analyse and appreciate someone's home and what is already there.''
■ Home Art takes place today and tomorrow. Bookings: melbourne.vic.gov.au/artsparticipation *Participants' surnames have been withheld.