Leave Me Be

Oscar Tuazon


Book, 16 x 23 cm, 117 p, language: English, publisher: DoPe Press, Paris, ISBN: 9782953978810.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2025/471).

Literary synopsis

The most important things are eating, staying dry, staying healthy, and avoiding others. So believed a tiny and nearly invisible sect of Oregonians from the 1970s and 80s. They were known (to themselves) as the VONU movement, which stands for Voluntary Not Vulnerable, and symbolizes the member’s “invulnerability to coercion”. Its members live mobilely, building temporary shelters in the forests of Western Oregon or traveling in unmarked vans and RVs, and use pseudonyms and bartering to avoid any activity which would require one to register with the government. In 2006, sculptor and installation artist Oscar Tuazon found a copy of the book Dwelling Portably, which was a collective record of the lives of hundreds of members of the VONU movement in the 1970s. Tuazon set out to find more information, ultimately discovering the writings of a man known only as Rayo, whose theoretical treatises lay out a philosophy of the movement. Leave Me Be includes excerpts from Rayo’s writings, as well as Tuazon’s own imagined narratives of other VONU members, which can be diaristic or instructive, chilling or empowering. This is a group of people whose aversion to society would verge on mental disorder, if it weren’t for their incredible resourcefulness and resolve. The outside observer may glimpse a childlike fear in their writings and wonder where such extreme anxiety could have originated. But the VONU lifestyle is much more about choice and empowerment: through their hardscrabble makeshift lives, the old fur trappers, pioneers, and holy hermits are resurrected.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

An illustrated fiction of invulnerability and disappearance first published as an edition of ten as part of the 2009 exhibition Untitled (Leave Me Be) in Oslo, this book takes the architectural sculptures of Oscar Tuazon as its center, documenting his various inspirations in their creation, from homeless drifters to hippy survivalists going off-grid and the so-called “outlaw architecture” these people build and inhabit as part of a gritty, free-thinking lifestyle.

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