Harper Academic

Dancing on My Own

Essays on Art, Collectivity, and Joy

by Simon Wu

On Sale: 06/25/2024

Price: $27.99

Dancing on My Own

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Dancing on My Own

Essays on Art, Collectivity, and Joy

by Simon Wu

On Sale: 06/25/2024

Format:

Price: $27.99

About the Book

A The Millions and Hyperallergic Most Anticipated Book of 2024 | A Publishers Weekly Summer Reads Pick

“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. . . . Wuan artist, curator, and writerlayers 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.

Critical Praise

“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

“This exhilarating debut essay collection from art curator Wu uses cultural artifacts as springboards to reflect on connection, sexuality, and the immigrant experience. . . . This dynamic first outing heralds the arrival of a promising new talent.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"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

“[A] devourable collection of essays. . . .Wu’s myriad observations on art, queerness, identity, and the trap of capitalism are narrated with a similar unfussy self-awareness, brimming with humor and depth.”
Hyperallergic

“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

"In this striking and inspiring collection of essays, Simon Wu shows how art defines us, how we anchor our identities in particular pieces of clothing, works of literature, exhibitions in galleries, parties in clubs. His perceptive voice, observant of every detail, guides us into a different kind of vision in which objects glow with significance. With an insider’s eye for the operation of the art world, Wu introduces us to a lesser-known and unjustly overlooked side of the New York City scene of the past decades, not just Keith Haring, but Tseng Kwong Chi and Ching Ho Cheng. Like a great mixtape (or a digital playlist), Dancing On My Own is a thoughtful and intimate act of curation." — Kyle Chayka, author of Filterworld

“Wu…weaves himself in and out of this bold collection. . . . These smart, sly essays will appeal to lovers of both pop and museum culture.”
Kirkus

“Taking his title from an anthem of steely defiance by the Swedish pop star Robyn, Simon Wu offers writings on art (from the mind of a critic, curator, and Art in America contributor) and such other topics as ‘the complicated sensation of the Telfar bag’ and ‘clutter in his mother’s suburban garage and its meaning for himself and his family.’”
Art in America

“The subtitle of this collection (Essays on Art, Collectivity, and Joy), is all I need to know to want it immediately. . . . [Wu] infuses these essays with his own interests, longings, and experiences, even as he stretches them beyond himself, asking what it means to love and create in such a fraught and constantly changing world.”
Book Riot

Inspired by Swedish pop singer Robyn’s eponymous song, this genre-defying work takes unexpected detours through contemporary America, as well as from places further afield, weaving heady late-night encounters with reflections on the state of contemporary art, identity, and politics. . . . Wu invites readers to watch him groove at his most personal moments and to witness his feelings of lust, doubt, bliss, and innocence, while reminding us that being human, with all the joys and challenges that come with that, is ultimately what makes us.” — Art Asia Pacific

“A curator and writer, Wu’s playful consideration explores everything from raving to art-world drama to Bushwick fashion, breathing life into the tired tropes that sometimes weigh heavy in what he calls ‘Asian American-core’ writing.” — Interview Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780063316201
  • ISBN 10: 006331620X
  • Imprint: Harper
  • On Sale: 06/25/2024
  • Trimsize: 5.500 in (w) x 8.250 in (h) x 0.750 in (d)
  • Pages: 224
  • List Price: $27.99
  • BISAC1 : BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / Asian & Asian American
  • BISAC2 : LITERARY COLLECTIONS / Essays
  • BISAC3 : ART / Criticism & Theory