I Was a Hero and Loved 

“idk it’s like it never happened” 

-Nate Hill

Nate was a classmate of my brother’s at the former unaccredited, free collaborative school, Bruce High Quality Foundation University in New York City. We met in 2016 after he asked me to participate in a project of his. I did, and we began a strange and brief relationship of which the memories and timeline are fuzzy. I remember hiding a bottle of cheap white wine under the table at a seafood place in New Jersey, his son’s red plastic car shaped bed, empty on the floor of his studio apartment in The Bronx, sitting on a white leather couch at the 24 hour karaoke place in Chinatown, watching him perform in the pink light with awe. Following a fight on the street after seeing the film Psycho together, we didn’t speak for six years. We reconnected recently, and below is a brief conversation conducted via a shared Google doc.

Nadine Hanson: What did you eat today? 

Nate Hill: Work mom gave me some food she cooked. It’s like chicken and Mac n cheese.. she also had a plate someone gave her of Mediterranean that she didn’t want so I took it .. Often I scavenge food from work.. 

Nadine: How did she become your “work mom”?

Nate: She wanted to date but she is not my type but she kept giving me food so we are friends .. me bringing her some food or something in return is long overdue I would like to reciprocate..

Lana Del Rey with an ex. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.

Nadine: What’s your favorite song on Lana’s new album (Did You Know There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd?) 

Nate: I like Paris, Texas a lot right now..  I like how she whispers Texas .. the melody makes me feel like I’m with some fairies in the woods .. I like feeling like I’m in a magical world .. This is a good escape from the noise.. what’s yours? It’s a lot the album is obviously rich.. 

Nadine: Paris, Texas is one of my favorites, too, but Fishtail is #1 for me. The line “I wish I could skinny dip inside your mind” reminded me of a text I sent to a man I was dating, where I said I wished he could carry me around inside his mouth and I could look at the world through the gap in his teeth. I meant it, I was obsessed. I broke up with him the next day.

Nadine: When did you last cry, and why? 

Nate: I soft cry here and there like I don’t bawl it’s just a few seconds and maybe a tear or two comes out. Last time was yesterday I microdosed and of course got emotional about joy.. pain.. the past.. family .. exes.. my son..typical human things.. I cry in little doses there’s not like one big cry ..

Nadine: Do you believe in god? 

Nate: Idk

Nadine: Can you name any artists / projects you have been influenced by?

Nate: When I was 20 or so I found a book in my college library about 2 performance artists (google tells me they are called the Art Guys?) who spent 24 hours in a dennys. It taught me you could do anything and call it art.. as a young man I copied their work. I spent 24 hours in a dennys then 24 hours in a tree in McCarren park ..

Nadine: Tell me about how your project Death Bear started and how you experienced it.

Nate: My son’s mom made it up with me.. I wanted to give people something nice that wasn’t ironic, hurt or disturbed them.. it worked it went viral .. I was a hero and loved.. it was nice to feel .. then I got burned out doing it .. during tho I loved it feeling like people were playing my make believe game and they were happy at the end it was positive lol .. it was the most wholesome thing I ever did that was also successful.. once a stranger on the subway handed me a note that just said thank you for death bear .. I felt like a good person

Death Bear, a character created by Nate who he described to Art 21 magazine as “the man dressed as a bear that performed house calls to strangers where he took objects causing you pain back to his cave where they disappeared forever.” Image courtesy of art 21.

Nadine: :,,,,,)

Could you talk a little bit about some other projects you did around that time? Maybe Free Bouncy Rides, Punch Me Panda?

Nate: well I don’t really do great at this point explaining what it was I did.. maybe I got too old or just don’t care.. but like I was completely out of control at this time.. uhh I was I guess unhinged? Like complete lunatic?? I felt fine and normal at the time but looking back I can see I was possibly out of my mind? It didn’t matter no one could tell me shit and if they tried to stop me they were no longer my friend as if that happened anyways .. I was only friends with other performance artists or outcasts at this time.. that’s all I can say for this time atm

Free Bouncy Rides, 2009. Image Courtesy of Hyperallergic
Punch Me Panda, 2010. Image courtesy of Times of Malta.

Nadine: Are you open to talking about the project I met you through?

Nate: It’s ok


Darling Try Me

I haven’t looked at it in a year or 2.. 

ok I just looked back at it wow it’s pretty cringe lol

The facts as I recall are…

Around 2016 after I cheated on my wife while she was pregnant and got caught 

We separated 

I set up a website 

Wore a paper bag on my head naked 

Invited random women to my apartment 

After hearing my confession of wrongdoing they could choose to do whatever they wanted with me

You came over and [redacted]

Anyways during my divorce my son’s mom printed out the website 

Lots of drugs and sex

She brought it to court 

She told my mother 

I took the website down

There were like a dozen women who did it?  

Idk it’s like it never happened

Darling Try Me. Image Courtesy of Nate Hill.

Nadine: What kind of work have you been making since you left the city? 

Nate: I do byelol.com it is a black screen you can stare at online .. I host events where controversial issues are proposed and all are welcome to attend the black screen .. No discussion is possible yet people who disagree can be in the same space something less and less common nowadays lol

byelol.com. Image courtesy of byelol.com.

Nadine: What’s your favorite thing about being alive?

Nate: Hanging w my son and flipping over rocks stuff like that .. 

Nadine: When you flip over rocks what are you hoping to find? / what have you done with the things you’ve found together? 

Nate: Last week by the river I found a leech and put it in my aquarium .. he collects ants, studies them, and we bought some queens and have started a colony at home..

Nadine: What is your least favorite thing about being alive?

Nate: Idk I feel amazing 

Nadine: Are you scared to die?

Nate: I have an 8 year old I want to be around now but before him I didn’t care as much 

Nate and his son’s ant colony. Photo courtesy of Nate Hill.

Nadine: Can you talk about your relationship to costumes? 

Nate: I feel like a time traveler wearing this ice cream man fit.. it’s a way for me to dissociate and deny harsh realities..or feel unaffected or safe.. especially at work it makes me feel unique and not like part of a machine even if I may be I don’t feel it as much it is a buffer I need.. in the past costumes were ways to invent identities in performance .. I know how to capture the imagination through mask and make people believe and play along with me.. I like to play and need to play or I get sad 

Part of Nate’s ice cream man costume. Image courtesy of eBay. 

Nadine: Why an ice cream man? 

Nate: I like a sweet facade with sinister hidden underneath .. I carry a fake cotton candy prop.

Nadine: What is sinister about it to you? 

Nate: I’m hiding something …things that have been shared in my work.

Nadine: Could you work somewhere that didn’t allow you to wear your ice cream man outfit? 

Nate: I have a plan to wear normal clothes for first month or so then transition 

Nadine: Have you sold ice cream in your outfit? Would you want to? 

Nate: No I heard you can get tendonitis from scooping 

Nadine: What advice have you listened to regarding your art practice? 

Nate: Not much. I was a bit self destructive and burned bridges throughout.. I had a chip on my shoulder, daddy issues, basically fuck everyone during most of my art career and used people to advance my art ideas making or maintaining few friends except those who were ruthlessly focused and driven on their own work or who supported me without question lol

Nate with a pile of Mcdonald’s cheeseburgers, which he spent hurling at pedestrians on the Upper East Side in his project Free Cheeseburgers, 2012. Image Courtesy of Grub Street.

Nadine: What’s your Mcdonald’s order?

Nate: Cheeseburger .. I like a filet o fish ironically 

Nate Hill (he/him) is an artist based in New Jersey where he works in a lab taking care of fruit flies. byelol.com IG- @00000000000000oo00000oo

Nadine Hanson (she/her) is an artist based in New York City where she works as a waitress. nadinehanson.com

The Social Forms of Art (SoFA) Journal is a publication dedicated to supporting, documenting and contextualising social forms of art and its related fields and disciplines. Each issue of the Journal takes an eclectic look at the ways in which artists are engaging with communities, institutions and the public. The Journal supports and discusses projects that offer critique, commentary and context for a field that is active and expanding.

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Conversations on Everything is an expanding collection of interviews produced as part of SoFA Journal. Through the potent format of casual interviews as artistic research, insight is harvested from artists, curators, people of other fields and everyday humans. These conversations study social forms of art as a field that lives between and within both art and life.

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