We first saw Nate Hill’s “art” when videos surfaced online of him offering subway passengers “bouncy rides” on his lap. Strange, sure. But the fact that he was dressed in a plush fish costume to made it creepy and…cool?
Hill’s “Fishy” was the sort of street performance art that we missed. With everyone worried about their jobs and the economy, it was comforting to see someone who was still just doing something weird on a subway platform. So we tracked him down and spoke to him about what his art is all about.
When I recently met Hill, he greeted me dressed in a U.S. Marine’s uniform. “It’s just a costume,” Hill replied when I asked after his military status. “I like dressing up. My favorite costume is a milkman.”
This isn’t just a casual business; Hill says he dresses up in costume almost every day. It all started two years ago, on his 30th birthday when Hill claims he felt too much like an adult. He decided he wasn’t fully ready to relinquish his childhood and started exploring what he calls “regression art.”
“I wanted to start, not necessarily behaving like a child, but bringing parts of a child’s world into my own life and artwork, so that’s why I brought in my mascot costume,” he explains. “It’s really exciting to create that world for myself and then have strangers enter it.”
Hill credits Anna Nicole Smith for the idea of the bouncy rides. In one episode of her reality show, Smith bounced her assistant on her lap and received a quarter in her cleavage as payment.
After he ordered fish costume on eBay, Hill started putting his leg muscles to work offering bouncy rides, most often at the Union Square L train platform. Although he’s the first to admit that there are innocent childhood aspects mixed with adult sexual connotations, he’s still perplexed by some of the reactions.
“I don’t understand is why people get upset about me giving the bouncy rides,” Hill says. “Shouldn’t you be equally upset at the people taking them? What’s up with them?”
Hill says he plans to continue offering bouncy rides through the spring and give his lap a much-needed reprieve after a year of service. He says the job can be taxing. Hill recently had his camera stolen, got into a fist-fight with a group of punks at Silent Barn and the bouncy rides have even put a strain on his love life.
“With my girlfriends, it’s been a problem,” Hill said. “Girls don’t like you bouncing other girls on your lap.”
Though his time as a free bouncy-ride aficionado is halfway over, Hill has found a new way to incorporate both his mascot costume and single status into his next project. He plans on starting a dating service in full costume-clad attire.