Nate Hill is a biracial performance artist originally from Florida who has lived in Harlem, New York the past four years. His unusual resume includes such performances as Punch Me Panda, in which he charged people a penny to punch him, and the NYC Chinatown Taxidermy Tour, in which he led people in making art out of dead animal parts.
Hill's latest project is called "The White Ambassador," which began with him opening a Twitter account in September with the handle @WhiteSmellBot. Through the account, Hill retweets any comments that refer to the smell of white people. In the past three months, over 7,000 tweets have accrued, many of which oddly refer to white people smelling like a wet dog. The next phase of the project involved Hill walking the streets of Harlem in whiteface while wearing a sign reading, "White People Do NOT Smell Like Wet Dog," and chanting lines like, "We are white! We smell alright!"
The purpose of Hill's performance here is to call attention to racism in general, by focusing on derogatory comments aimed at white people. Said Hill:
"My mission is pretty clear — racial tolerance. The white stereotypes are often overlooked, and I wanted to examine that. There seems to be a double standard of how racist you're allowed to be depending on your race."
Having been raised by a white mother and black father, Hill finds that it's difficult to identify with certain racist feelings. He said:
"I don't feel the resentment that black people have towards white people. Maybe because my mother is white. It bugs me a lot — I don't want to come across like I'm holier or better than anyone else."
Hill will be performing his sui generis act three times a week until February, and what may appear to be a wacky artist's bid for attention on the surface, could end up leading to deeper, healing, consciousness-raising dialogues. Too often ignorance is reinforced by the status quo, so I'm all for anything that ultimately promotes our common humanity, tolerance, and love.