I didn't know Bob for very long but I thought he was a fine fine person. So here it is, my brief eulogy to him.
Bob Flanagan was a performance artist and poet whose work was forged in both his masochism and his lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis. Born on 26 December 1952, he died aged 43 on Thursday 4th January 1996 at Long Beach Memorial Hospital in California.
Bob spent the last 15 years of his life with his collaborator and Mistress, Sheree Rose, to whom he dedicated much of his work, including his "Slave Sonnets" collection. The couple remained active in the S/M community, having been founder members of the Los Angeles chapter of the Janus Society, a pansexual S/M organisation, in 1982.
First as a cystic fibrosis poster boy, and then later in his poetry and performance art, Bob helped to educate about CF. He also maintained that eroticising pain helped give him the will to live with his disease. The poster from his 1994 "Visiting Hours" exhibition at the SoHo New Museum, New York reads "Fight Sickness with Sickness". His poem "Why", reproduced in full in the Re/Search book "Bob Flanagan: Supermasochist", illuminates this point:
"...because I learned to take my medicine; because I was a big boy for taking it; because I can take it like a man; because, as somebody once said, HE'S GOT MORE BALLS THAN I DO; because it is an act of courage; because it does take guts; because I'm proud of it; because I can't climb mountains; because I'm terrible at sports; because NO PAIN, NO GAIN; because SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL THE CHILD; because YOU ALWAYS HURT THE ONE YOU LOVE."
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