To search for a living, breathing performer to recreate a work of art, where would you go? If you happen to be putting on 1991’s Untitled (Go-Go Dancing Platform) by late gay Cuban artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, you might find yourself in one of Silverlake’s gay hotspots.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ installation consists of a lit-up platform, empty most of the time except when a go-go dancer randomly gets on. Unscheduled and unannounced, the performer dances to the music blaring from his headphones, inaudible to the guests at the museum. When describing the original installation, Gonzalez-Torres did not specify whether the go-go dancer had to be male or female. That he or she be wearing the silver lamé shorts, however, was non-negotiable.
Since Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ death in 1996, exhibits choosing to display the installation have selected male dancers to keep consistent with the original intention.
“It definitely is not your usual object in an art exhibition,” SF MOMA chief curator Gary Garrels told The Los Angeles Times in 2009 when he curated an exhibit featuring the piece at UCLA’s Hammer Museum. By including a human being, Garrels said, Gonzalez-Torres gave Minimalist art “a kind of poetic, romantic, social and cultural dimension.”
Because the go-go dancer only shows up once a day and performs a short five-minute routine, the artwork plays well into our current notion of FOMO (fear of missing out), chance encounters and missed connections. If you don’t catch the go-go dancer in action, you get instead an empty box. Your imagination, daydreams and desires get to take his place.
For better or worse, things have changed since 1991 and we now have smartphones and social video-sharing so you won’t ever have to miss another go-go boy perform. Watch video of the Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ installation at the Hammer Museum below.
p.s. Want to know what it’s really like to go-go dance in other places besides a museum? Click here.