Dancing on My Own: Essays on Art, Collectivity, and Joy (Hardcover)
“Simon Wu manages to be both a shrewd critic and enthused aspirant of what passes for today’s cultural capital. . . . with a disarming lack of cynicism that is both keen and refreshing.” –Cathy Park Hong
"A genius melding of art criticism, autobiography, personal essay, and travel writing. . . . Wu—an artist, curator, and writer—layers experiences like translucent curtains through which we see the landscape of a past in the present making its future." –Claudia Rankine
An expansive and deeply personal essay collection which explores the aesthetics of class aspiration, the complications of creating art and fashion, and the limits of identity politics.
In Robyn’s 2010 track Dancing on My Own, the Swedish pop-singer chronicles a night on the dance floor in the shadow of a former lover. She is bitter, angry, and at times desperate, and yet by the time the chorus arrives her frustration has melted away. She decides to dance on her own, and in this way, she transforms her solitude into a more complex joy.
Taking inspiration from Robyn’s seminal track, emerging art critic and curator Simon Wu dances through the institutions of art, capitalism, and identity in these expertly researched, beautifully rendered essays. In “A Model Childhood” he catalogs the decades’ worth of clutter in his mother’s suburban garage and its meaning for himself and his family. In “For Everyone,” Wu explores the complicated sensation of the Telfar bag (often referred to as “the Brooklyn Birkin”) and asks whether fashion can truly be revolutionary in a capitalist system—if something can truly be “for everyone” without undercutting someone else. Throughout, Wu centers the sticky vulnerability of living in a body in a world where history is mapped into every choice we make, every party drug we take, and every person we kiss.
Wu’s message is that to dance on your own is to move from critique into joy. To approach identity with the utmost sympathy for the kinds of belonging it might promise, and to look beyond it. For readers of Cathy Park Hong and Alexander Chee, Dancing on My Own is a deeply felt and ultimately triumphant anthem about the never-ending journey of discovering oneself, and introduces a brilliant new writer on the rise.
About the Author
SIMON WU is a curator and writer involved in collaborative art production and research. He has organized exhibitions and programs at the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney Museum, The Kitchen, MoMA, and David Zwirner, among other venues. In 2021 he was awarded an Andy Warhol Foundation Art Writers Grant and was featured in Cultured magazine's Young Curators series. He was a 2018 Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and is currently in the PhD program in History of Art at Yale University. He has two brothers, Nick and Duke, and loves the ocean.
“I will say you won't want to leave. Simon Wu’s debut, Dancing on My Own, is a genius melding of art criticism, autobiography, personal essay, and travel writing. Even more, it is an invitation into the art world from Wu’s particular Asian-American positionality and consciousness as he determines his place within it. Here, the life lived reflects back its adjacency to generations past through meditations on visual art & culture. Attraction, desire, identity, whiteness, liberalism, "queer ecologies,” family, joy, defeat, and survival are all given close readings. Wu—an artist, curator, and writer—layers experiences like translucent curtains through which we see the landscape of a past in the present making its future. I didn't want the book to end as it built dimensions and created depth while moving closer and closer to a completed installation of Wu's dazzling mind. A must-read.”
— Claudia Rankine, award-winning author of Just Us and Citizen
"Simon Wu manages to be both a shrewd critic and enthused aspirant of what passes for today’s cultural capital. Whether it’s ethically branded handbags, Asian American pastiche, initiatives for racial inclusion in museums funded by dark money, and the ever-increasing blurring of art and fashion, Wu unpacks it all with a disarming lack of cynicism that is both keen and refreshing." — Cathy Park Hong, New York Times bestselling author of Minor Feelings
“A neon-bright picture of gay nightlife, leftist class strivers, the seductions of the art world, and what Wu critically—but fondly—calls the ‘empty orchestra’ of Asian America. In fact, there he is now in his mesh coattails, striking the empty air.” — Andrea Long Chu, Pulitzer Prize–winning critic at New York magazine
"A beautifully ecstatic history of our present, and what it means to seek freedom in the things, institutions, and, most importantly, people around us." — Hua Hsu, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Stay True