“Babes. It is never good to be sour babe. Take the power and don’t be sour. Kinda rhymes but not because it should”
These are the words of multidisciplinary artist Natalie Paneng’s alter ego, Nice. Nice only exists in the coded world, with the search box on YouTube instructing algorithms to invite us into one of her constructed environments. She often explores themes through the use of colours. Spaces and objects that should be familiar are made foreign through the use of distortions. Natalie shared with me how Nice came into her life.
Having always wanted to study something in the arts, Natalie secretly applied for Drama at Wits University. Her other major is Set and Costume Design. “I really enjoy creating spaces that allow new stories to play out,” she explained. Having found her first year as a drama student quite difficult, she was looking for an avenue which would allow her to perform without physically having to be in front of an audience.
The birth of her vlog Hello Nice came in conjunction with a desire to learn more about photography, videography and editing. “I’m still learning and sometimes I make mistakes and end up using them to my advantage. My work ends up looking pretty amateur but I use that to my advantage too,” Natalie explained. With a concoction made up of her obsession with vaporwave gifs she found on Tumblr, a new camera and her alter ego, Nice, Hello Nice came to life. “I asked my cousin to film me doing random things in the kitchen,” she explained, “My aesthetic choices are silly sometimes but I realized that they give Hello Nice its own unique look.”
Describing Hello Nice as “genre-less”, a “fragmented short film” and “about something and nothing at the same time” the spontaneity that goes into filming each video allows Natalie to develop the character Nice organically. “I find topics on the spot and look for backgrounds which look cool. Sometimes I add a few props and those end up being what the videos are centered around. I am constantly looking for bits and pieces which will mesh well together and complement each other.”
Natalie’s experimentation with distortion leads some of her videos to come across as abstract and trippy, as if we have been invited into one of Nice’s dreams. However, performing the persona requires interaction, “that is where the quirky, conversationalist elements come into play.”
To experience the constructed mini worlds where Nice dances, balances oranges on her head, and has conversations about the importance of keeping hydrated, check out Hello Nice.