December 26, 1952|
New York City, US
|Died||January 4, 1996
Long Beach, California, US
He was born in New York City on December 26, 1952, and grew up in Glendale, California with his mother, Kathy; father, Robert; brothers John and Tim; and sister, Patricia. At a young age, Flanagan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (from which his sister, Patricia, 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. He studied literature at California State University, Long Beach and the University of California, Irvine. He moved to Los Angeles in 1976. In 1978, he published his first book, The Kid Is the Man. He also worked with the improv comedy group The Groundlings.
He was the subject of the documentary SICK: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (1997), a film by Kirby Dick, which covers the final years of Bob's life and does not shy away from detailing his masochistic activities.
While some of his performances were notable for acts of extreme masochism (on at least one occasion he hammered a nail through his penis, while cracking jokes), 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 he 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.
He 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.
A Matter of Choice In collaboration with Sheree Rose; LACE, 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
- The Kid Is the Man (1978)
- The Wedding of Everything (1983)
- Slave Sonnets (1986)
- Fuck Journal (Hanuman Books, 1988)
- A Taste of Honey with David Trinidad (1990)
- Bob Flanagan: Supermasochist (1993) (interviews)
- Pain Journal(1996)
- The Book of Medicine (manuscript, never published)
- 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