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December 26, 1952|
New York City
|Died||January 4, 1996
|Known for||sadomasochism, performance art, cystic fibrosis activism|
|Notable work||Why, Visiting Hours|
|Spouse(s)||Sheree Rose (1989–1996)|
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Flanagan was born in New York City on December 26, 1952, and grew up in first in Glendale, then Costa Mesa, California, with his mother, Kathy; father, Robert; brothers John and Tim; and sister, Patricia. (Another sister died in infancy from cystic fibrosis.) At a young age, Flanagan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (from which his sister, Patricia, who died from it at age 21, and a second sister, who died soon after birth, also suffered), a condition which would influence his art and ultimately claim his life. Flanagan survived into his 40s despite the cystic fibrosis—an unusually long life at a time when the life expectancy of those diagnosed with CF was 17 years and because doctors did not expect Bob to live past the age of 7 or 8.
The final years of Flanagan's life, including his death, are the subject of the Kirby Dick documentary SICK: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist. Flanagan's participation in the film was contingent upon his death being part of the completed project.
While some of Flanagan performances were notable for acts of extreme masochism (on at least one occasion he hammered a nail through his penis, while cheerfully singing If I Had a Hammer), he also wrote humorous songs, many of them intended as much for children as adults.
Flanagan is featured in the widely banned music video for the song "Happiness in Slavery" by Nine Inch Nails. In the video, he plays a slave who worships a machine. He offers a candle to an altar, before ceremonially undressing and washing. He then lies down on an intelligent torture machine that molests and ultimately kills him, all with a mixture of pain and pleasure on his face.
In 1993, Flanagan also appeared in the video for the Danzig song "It's Coming Down". In the uncensored version of the video (near the ending), Flanagan pierces his upper and lower lips together and then he hammers a nail through the head of his penis before bleeding on the lens of the camera recording him.
Flanagan also had a bit part in Godflesh's "Crush My Soul" video, as a suitably blasphemous, upside-down suspended Christ, hoisted on to the ceiling of a traditional-looking church by his partner/companion Sheree Rose.
- Visiting Hours: An Installation by Bob Flanagan in collaboration with Sheree Rose, Santa Monica Museum of Art and the New Museum, 1994
- A Matter of Choice, in collaboration with Sheree Rose, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, July 1992
- Bob Flanagan at the Movies, Artists' Television Access, San Francisco, April 18, 1992
- Bob Flanagan's Sick, Art in the Anchorage, New York, August 1991
- Tell Me What to Do: An Improvisational Reading and Performance, Beyond Baroque, Venice, August 14, 1987
- Smith, Roberta. "Bob Flanagan, 43, Performer Who Fashioned Art From His Pain". New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
- Levy, Emanuel (8 February 1997). "Review: 'Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist'". Variety.
- SICK: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist DVD Commentary Track
- Holden, Stephen. "An Artist Whose Medium Was Pain". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
- "Visiting Hours: An Installation by Bob Flanagan in collaboration with Sheree Rose". The New Museum Digital Archive. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
- Flanagan, Bob (1993). Bob Flanagan: Supermasochist. San Francisco, CA: Re/Search.
- "Bob Flanagan - Pain Journal". vv.arts.ucla.edu. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
- Obituary: Roberta Smith (January 6, 1996). "Bob Flanagan, 43, Performer Who Fashioned Art From His Pain". The New York Times.
- Excerpts from Flanagan's Pain Journal
- Why (poem answering the question of Flanagan's lifestyle)
- Bob Flanagan in the Video Data Bank
- (in French) Philippe Liotard, "Bob Flanagan: ça fait du bien là où ça fait mal, Quasimodo, n°5, 1999
- Bob Flanagan at the Internet Movie Database