'Black people are racist too. They need to deal with that.'
New York performance artist Nate Hill has already enjoyed close interaction with the American public, his previous projects entitled Free Bouncy Rides, Death Bear and Punch Me Panda have seen him absorbing the pain and frustrations of have-a-go members of the public.
His latest work 'The White Ambassador' where he travels the streets of Harlem in whiteface trying to get people
to see racism from a different perspective has led to some difficult conversations.
The idea behind Nate's work appears to be that if we see the racism white people are subjected to, then maybe more people will become aware of the absurdity of racism and will become less racist themselves. Nate travels with a placard round his neck which says 'White People Do Not Smell Like Wet Dog'.
Nate has set up a WhiteSmellBot on Twitter that is now retweeting about 80 'white people smell like' stereotypes a day. As a mixed-race performance artist, he’s determined to confront these bytes of cyber racism.
Nate says: 'Black people are racist too. They need to deal with that. All white people don’t stink. Wake up and smell the damp, white hair. I have some in a plastic bag. Then sign my petition.'
Choosing Harlem as the setting for the project would on the face of it seem to be a good place to tackle some of the prejudices some black people have about white people but then black Americans don't really need to be shown the absurdity of racism, they live with the painful reminders of it every day and because of that, maybe they are not yet ready to tackle their own short comings.
One encounter with Harlem residents sees Nate's own racial background being challenged and him being accused of being on the wrong side. Nate handles it well and thanks the residents for stopping to talk to him in the first place. The challenges illustrate the bad feelings that still exist and the difficulties an artist like Nate has in trying to tackle racism from a mixed-race perspective.
Whilst everyone might not see Nate's vision he clearly sees the way forward to a less racist world.