PSFK Talks With Performance Artist Nate Hill of Club Animals

PSFK Talks With Performance Artist Nate Hill of Club Animals

PSFK has been talking with artists and innovators that we’ve covered over the past year to get their insight on the future of innovative art and ideas.

Kyle Studstill
  • 28 december 2009

PSFK has been talking with artists and innovators that we’ve covered over the past year to get their insight on the future of innovative art and ideas.

Artist Nate Hill is creative director of the performance art group Club Animals, known for his Free Bouncy RidesCandy Crack Delivery, and his upcoming project Death Bear.

My work right now is about trying to see outside myself and not be such a self-centered artist and person. Yes I want fame, as many of us do, but I want it for a good reason. I want to deserve it and have it bedstowed upon me as a reward for hard work.

Death Bear is the beginning of this new direction in my artwork. This new intent on giving to people a service. The idea is to make performance art a free public service.  This idea first began with the Chinatown Garbage Tour which began in 2007.

From when I began art making around 2002, I was selfish and insecure. I horded my taxidermy sculptures and refused to give them away or attempt to sell them rigorously. I think it was because I was afraid I could not repeat them, and also because I could not trust how the buyer would appreciate them.  My work today is a response to this insecurity. I’ve learned to let go of my gifts and trust that there will be more to come.

With Death Bear, I’m trying to turn the focus away from myself and onto the person who has summoned me. I guess the irony is that DB is a horder himself (the thing that I used to do with previous taxiderny sculptures that I used to make).  But the difference is that DB doesn’t care so much about what you’re giving him or why. He only cares that he is doing you a service and helping you.

What projects or ideas are currently inspiring your work?

Lately I have been very inspired by something that the Princeton philosopher Cornel West said that being obsessed too into yourself can either lead to self obsession or self hate. I think he’s right because that has been my experience.  This is why I began DB. I wanted to deepen my ability to feel something for another human being. I am not known for my ability to empathize. I’m trying to feel the pain of others and then symboliclly help them.

I’m inspired by jazz musicians from the 40’s-60’s. The model of jazz will always be my biggest inspiration. I see this as one man standing up and expressing himself and if he is perceptive to world he can also dramatize a human experience that thousands of people can also feel. This has inspired me so deeply throughtout my life so far. The idea that if you are honest in your expression and put everything you have into it while also listening to what is going on around you, you can be yourself while also resonating with others. Real recognizes real as they say.

We’ve seen some interesting responses to your past projects, what do you consider to be the most interesting response or reaction to your experiments?

In terms of responses to my work, I need people involved to just let go. When giving a Free Bouncy Ride, I need for you to let go. Get bounced. Nothing is worse than someone getting on me, and then I start bouncing them hard, but then they jump off for some reason. Let the ride occur! Also it is disappointing when DB comes to your house and you are scared so you don’t interact with him or even let him in the door. I guess I just hate pussies. I try not to care about critics of my work who have not actually interacted with my work and that is most critics. That’s like reviewing a movie that you haven’t taken the time to see. Most negative criticism I’ve gotten has come from people who have never interacted with my work.

What is something you look forward to being able to do in the future with emerging technologies?

In terms of technologies, my work is very low tech. People summon DB through a text message and then I use google maps on my phone to find their house.

In the future, I think I would like to have a Free Bouncy Ride animatronic man in a dolphin costume that I can set up anywhere. I could even perform beside it. I could imitate it, so you don’t know which one is real. Or I could compete with it to see who gets the most rides. I could even have it give me a bouncy ride while I wear regular clothes. That would actually be amazing to get a bouncy ride. I don’t know what it feels like. I only give them.

What other projects have you seen that are similar in nature? What is your take on these?

In terms of projects similar to mine, I don’t know of any. There better not be. I like Bueys a lot because he was able to live symbolically even down to his clothing. I aspire to that with wearing a milkman costume at all times when not wearing a mascot head. The milkman represents someone who is sexually deviant and confident and has something up his sleeve and up to no good but also an everyman. This is how I see myself in the world as someone who is your friend and working for you but is fucking your wife and fucking her well.

Clearly your projects play off various aspects of our sometimes ridiculous culture. What is your take on how technology influences the culture within which your projects operate?

My work has little to say on technology. Its about either blending the adult world and the child’s world and responding to ageing (free bouncy rides, candy crack) or about helping people get over personal loss and tragedy (Death Bear).

Thanks Nate!

Nate Hill


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