cover image Dancing on My Own: Essays on Art, Collectivity, and Joy

Dancing on My Own: Essays on Art, Collectivity, and Joy

Simon Wu. Harper, $27.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-331620-1

This exhilarating debut essay collection from art curator Wu uses cultural artifacts as springboards to reflect on connection, sexuality, and the immigrant experience. In “A Model Childhood,” Wu recounts how he was inspired by artist Ken Okiishi to create an exhibition displaying the miscellany Wu’s parents had kept from his childhood, suggesting that the preservation of McDonald’s toys, piggy banks, and plushies stemmed from a scarcity mindset borne of his parents’ move from Myanmar to the U.S. in the late 1990s. Fashion designer Telfar Clemens’s “downmarket collaborations with brands like Budweiser, Eastpak, UGG, and White Castle” blur the line between high- and low-fashion and create the possibility of “a more progressive cultural class,” Wu argues in “For Everyone.” Several pieces meditate on the liberatory potential of dance, as in “Party Politics,” where Wu discusses how at raves created by queer people of color, “partying performs a dual, somewhat self-contradictory social function: it can let you perform an identity, and it can let you forget you have one at all.” Wu blends tender personal reflection with probing analysis of the works of Ching Ho Cheng and James Baldwin, among other artists and writers. Throughout, exegesis of Robyn’s music provides a thematic through line, expounding on what the pop star’s songs can teach listeners about staking one’s independence and finding joy amid sadness. This dynamic first outing heralds the arrival of a promising new talent. Agent: Clare Mao, Sanford J. Greenburger Assoc. (June)