Nate Hill could be an example of an artist working within what Nicolas Bourriaud calls relational aesthetics (Alana’s and my topic this week). In an interview on Art21, the two projects he brought up deal with reordering social relationships.
Death Bear went to people’s apartments in New York and took away the objects they gave him. The New York Times ran something in its Modern Love column about Death Bear — a woman gave him everything that reminded her of her ex-boyfriend whom she had been with for five years. He told her the belongings would disappear forever into his cave, and hoped that he had helped her in some way. The project asked people to let go of their attachments to material things, while involving them in art outside a traditional context. They became intimate participants in art, inviting it into their homes, giving up their cherished possessions in its service.
Hill’s most recent project, Mr. Dropout, walks through streets dressed in white, wearing a white mask. Unlike Death Bear, he doesn’t talk to anyone as Mr. Dropout, or acknowledge anyone he sees. Instead, he communicates via Twitter, telling people when and where he’s scheduled walks, and reacting to what he encounters during them.
Mr. Dropout only shows his humanity on the internet. In person, he is negative space, and all his social connections take place through technology. He makes you wonder what it would be like if everyone acted like Mr. Dropout, and asks you to think about the differences between your social media presence and how you live the rest of your life.