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Bob's thing.

ON JANUARY 4 BOB FLANAGAN SUCCUMBED TO CYSTIC FIBROSIS, THE DISEASE WITH WHICH HE HAD STRUGGLED ALL HIS LIFE AND THAT EVENTUALLY BECAME CENTRAL TO HIS ART. IN THE FOLLOWING PAGES, DENNIS COOPER'S REMEMBRANCE OF THE ARTIST APPEARS ALONGSIDE DEBORAH DRIER'S 1994 INTERVIEW, CONDUCTED IN THE HOSPITAL-ROOM INSTALLATION VISITING HOURS AT THE NEW MUSEUM IN NEW YORK, AND SEVERAL EXCERPTS FROM FLANAGAN'S PAIN JOURNAL.

Bob Flanagan and I met in the late '70s. At the time he'd published one thin book of gentle, Charles Bukowski-influenced poetry entitled The Kid Is the Man (Bombshelter Press, 1978). We were both in our mid 20s, born less than a month apart. I was sporting a modified punk/bohemian look and hated all things hippie-esque. Bob looked like one of the Allman Brothers: thin, junkie pale, with shoulder-length hair, a handlebar mustache, and an ever-present acoustic guitar that he'd occasionally strum while belting out parodies of Bob Dylan songs. His style put me off initially, as mine did him, but I found his poetry amusing, edgy, and odd, and his clownish, sarcastic personality belied a deeply submissive nature.

There was a new, upstart literary community forming around Los Angeles' Beyond Baroque Center, where Bob was leading a poetry workshop. I had met the poet Amy Gerstler in college, and she and I began to hang out at Beyond Baroque in hopes of meeting other young writers. After a few months of hunting and pecking through the crowds, a small, tight gang of us had begun to form, including, in addition to Bob, Amy, and myself, the poets Jack Skelley, David Trinidad, Kim Rosenfield, and Ed Smith, artist/fiction writer Benjamin Weissman, and a number of other artists, filmmakers, and the like. We partied together, showed one another our works-in-progress, and generally caused a ruckus in the then-dormant local arts scene.

Very early on, Bob told us he had cystic fibrosis, and that it was an incurable disease that would probably kill him in his early 30s - if he were lucky. But apart from his scrawniness, his persistent and terrible cough, and the high-protein liquids he constantly drank to keep his weight up, he was, if anything, the most energetic and pointedly reckless of us all. At that stage, Bob's poetry only obliquely described his illness, and barely touched on his masochistic sexual tendencies. In fact, it took him a while to reveal the details of his sex life to his new chums. I think the fact that my work dealt explicitly with my own rather dark sexual fantasies made it relatively easy in my case, and I remember his surprise and relief when I responded to his confession with wide-eyed fascination.

Bob was working on the densely lyrical, mock-humanist poems that would later be collected in his second book, The Wedding of Everything (Sherwood Press, 1983). He began to encode within his poetry little clues and carefully offhand references to S/M practices, and, gradually, as his vocabulary became more direct, the sex, and in particular his unabashed enjoyment of submission, humiliation, and pain, were revealed as the true subjects of his work.

Writing was difficult for Bob. One, he was a perfectionist. Two, with his sexual preferences finally out in the open, he was more interested in talking about and enacting fantasies that had largely played themselves out in daydreams and in private autoerotic practices. It was around this time that Bob met Sheree Levin, aka Sheree Rose, a housewife turned punk scenester with a master's degree in psychology. They fell in love, and, profoundly influenced both by her feminism and her interest in Wilhelm Reich's notions of "body therapy," Bob changed his work instantaneously and radically. For the rest of his life, Bob, usually working in collaboration with Sheree, used his writing, art, video, and performance works to chronicle their relationship with Rimbaudian lyricism and abandon.

Bob began to live part-time at Sheree's house in West Los Angeles, along with her two kids, Matthew and Jennifer. Bob was an exhibitionist, and Sheree loved to shock people, so their rampant sexual experimentation became very much a public spectacle. It wasn't unusual to drop by and find the place full of writers, artists, and people from the S/M community, all flying on acid and/or speed, Bob naked and happily enacting orders from the leather-clad Sheree. During this period Bob published two books, Slave Sonnets (Cold Calm Press, 1986) and the notorious Fuck Journal (Hanuman Books, 1987). He also began an ambitious book-length prose poem called The Book of Medicine, which he hoped would explore the relationship between his illness and his fascination with pain. At his death, the work remained incomplete, though sections had been used in his performances and have appeared in anthologies.

I was programming events at Beyond Baroque in those days and, as we were all interested in performance art, I organized a night called "Poets in Performance," in which we tried our hands at the medium. Bob and Sheree's piece involved Bob, clad only in a leather mask, improvising poetry while Sheree pelted him with every imaginable food item. It was such a hit, and Bob was so thrilled by this successful merging of his fetishes, his art, and his exhibitionist tendencies, that he and Sheree began doing similar, increasingly extreme performances around town. Perhaps the most famous and influential of these works, Nailed, 1989, began with a gory slide show by Rose and concluded, after various, highly stylized S/M acts, with Bob nailing his penis to a wooden board. The performance made Bob infamous, and he was subsequently asked to perform in rock videos by Nine Inch Nails, Danzig, and Godflesh, as well as being offered a role in Michael Tolkin's film The New Age. Nailed also interested Mike Kelley, who later used Bob and Sheree as models in one of his pieces and wound up doing several collaborations with the duo.

Coincidentally, interest in S/M and body modification was growing in youth culture, especially after the publication of Modern Primitives (RE/Search), which profiled Sheree's life as a dominatrix. Bob was a hero and model to the denizens of this subculture, even as he found much of their interest to be superficial and trendy. Bob was always and only an artist. He never cloaked his masochism in pretentious symbolism, nor did he use his work to perpetuate the fashionable idea that S/M is a new, pagan religious practice. His performances, while exceedingly graphic and visceral, involved a highly estheticized, personal, pragmatic challenge to accepted notions of violence, illness, and death. For all the obsessive specificity of his interests, Bob was a complex man who wanted simultaneously to be Andy Kaufman, Houdini, David Letterman, John Keats, and a character out of a de Sade novel. So his performances were as wacky and endearing as they were disturbing and moving. For example, at the same time he was making a name for himself as a shockmeister, he was performing on Sundays with the improvisational comedy troupe The Groundlings, in hopes of fulfilling his lifelong ambition to be a stand-up comedian.

By the early '90s, Bob's physical condition was worsening. He was having to hospitalize himself before and after performances just to get through them. He and Sheree proposed a performance/installation piece to the Santa Monica Museum of Art, which was accepted and became Visiting Hours, a multimedia presentation comprising sculpture, video, photography, text, and Bob himself poised in a hospital bed acting as the work's amiable host and information center. Visiting Hours was popular and critically well received, eventually traveling to the New Museum in New York and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In 1993, RE/Search published Supermasochist, a book entirely devoted to Bob's life and work. Also that year, filmmaker Kirby Dick began to shoot a feature-length documentary film about Bob and Sheree entitled Sick, which will be released this fall.

There was some hope during this period that Bob might be able to have a lifesaving heart and lung transplant, but, after months of tests, it was determined that his lungs had deteriorated too much to allow him to survive the operation, and he began to accept that he had maybe a year left to live. He and Sheree concentrated on visual art pieces, some of which were exhibited at Galerie Analix in Geneva and at NGBK Gallery in Berlin. The duo collaborated on a last installation work, Dust to Dust, which Sheree is currently completing, and Bob kept a year-long diary of his physical deterioration, Pain Journal, which will be published in the future. Even as most of Bob's life began to be taken up with stints in the hospital and painful physical therapy, he was still on the scene, frail but good-natured, using his omnipresent oxygen tank as a comical prop just as he had once used his acoustic guitar. Right after Christmas, Bob went into the hospital one final time and died on January 4, 1996. In the 15 years I knew him, Bob grew from a minor poet into a unique and profoundly original artist who accomplished more than he ever imagined he could, and whose loss, predictable or not, is one of the greatest difficulties those of us who knew and loved him have ever had to face.

RACK TALK DEBORAH DRIER INTERVIEWS BOB FLANAGAN AND SHEREE ROSE

I didn't have the chance to know Bob Flanagan for as long as I would have liked. When, one Friday afternoon in November 1994, I cabbed over to the New Museum to introduce myself, I was not only depressed about the prognosis for the lung disease I have had for some time but also having trouble with the novel I was writing out of what I've come to call "The Situation." A friend had told me that Bob's Installation "Visiting Hours"(1) was uplifting and that seeing it would make me feel better. I'm pretty suspicious of uplift in any form, but I went anyway. Talking to Flanagan as he sat in his hospital bed, a central part of the installation, would, I thought, at least clarify certain issues for me. In fact, I didn't leave until the museum closed and Bob and Sheree Rose, his companion and collaborator, went back to their hotel.

We decided to talk again when Bob and Sheree returned to N.Y. from L.A. at the end of December for Bob's 42nd birthday, which was going to be celebrated in the museum. I attended that event (which featured Bob, nude, lying on a bed of nails), and the next day the three of us reconvened in the hospital-room installation, where we talked (interrupted each time Bob was hoisted, upside down and naked, to the ceiling) until the tape in my portable tape recorder ran out.

When Flanagan's work is discussed, it is usually, and correctly, assimilated to various discourses of the body and to current preoccupations with the transgressive elements of S/M. But it is also very moving: you can't help but have an emotional reaction to it. It was this subjectivity that Bob, Sheree, and I wanted to reclaim in our conversation. Too much of the theory that takes the body as its focus has remained oddly abstract. The theorist Donna Haraway, for example, is exactly right in describing tuberculosis as the paradigmatic illness of the 19th century, AIDS and HIV as that of the 20th; but if, as Haraway suggests, contemporary "victims" of disease are from the medical establishment's point of view nothing but the unfortunate hosts of whatever agent is going to harm or kill them, that doesn't go very far toward honoring the experience of the thinking, conscious subject. Or give that subject, perhaps the ultimate "other," much to work with if he or she wants to speak for or represent him- or herself.

It seems especially important to me, now that this interview is being published after Bob's death, to emphasize the value of this subjectivity, the value of this speaking "I," which was as central to his artmaking as the disease that came to inform it. Sick as Bob was, and much as he complained, near the end, of depression and of a waning sense of humor, he remained himself: a body, a man, an artist who was always more than the disease, cystic fibrosis, that finally killed him. Reading Bob's Pain Journal, which documents the last year of his life (three entries are published in these pages) was very difficult. Not so much because of the rawness of the subject - death - or the breathtaking ruthlessness of the tone, but because the words sound so like Bob, are Bob, that I can't quite believe I won't be seeing him again. Freud said humans make art to cheat death - for Bob, perhaps, it worked.

The following is based on a series of conversations I had with Bob in November and December of 1994, and is of that moment. - DD

DEBORAH DRIER: I've been thinking lately about art and victimhood, especially after Arlene Croce's appalling piece on Bill T. Jones in The New Yorker.(2) I would ask you, does making art about one's illness automatically turn one into a victim? I've never thought of you as a victim, or myself either, and it seems to me that any sick person, artist or not, has to fight other people's perceptions, or should I say misperceptions.

BOB FLANAGAN: Yes. The reaction I'm most surprised at when I get lifted up in the air by my ankles, or when I lie on a bed of nails, like at my birthday party, is that people break into tears. My own reaction is more like. This is very funny.

DD: I brought a friend to your birthday party and she said, "Oh, this is so sad," to which I replied, "What?" From my point of view, what you do is not sad but absurd or ridiculous, and I say that without condescension. The work makes me laugh - that's part of why I like it.

BF: Yeah, and it's the reason I do it. People tend to hate art that addresses victimization because it's easy to manipulate your audience with that stuff. Hollywood movies do it all the time. But I'm pointing out how absurd it is for the kind of person I am to do the kinds of things I do, S/M especially. A guy lying on a gurney made of nails with a cake on his stomach is goofy. In L.A., when I was in the air, a friend of ours looked up at me hanging there and said, "Oh, a pinata!"

DD: What you do, it seems to me, is more related to writing than to conventional image-making, even if it's a special kind of writing - the writing of excess.

BF: Yes, I come to all this from a writing background, and particularly a poetry background. "No idea but in things" was the quote we always got in poetry workshops, and that's how I approach it all, putting one thing next to another thing next to another thing. Objectifying things is really important to me.

DD: I don't always think objectification's bad - I write about fashion, which ostensibly objectifies women, and sometimes I think that's what I like most about it. In Visiting Hours you seem to be making yourself into an artifact, a thing that, like everything else in the installation, points toward a construction of who you are.

BF: Growing up with cystic fibrosis, you go through different stages. Especially when you're a teenager, you go through a phase of hiding the fact that you have this disease. I'm in the phase now where it seems easier to me to reverse that, easier to push it all out and almost make fun of the disease, turning the tables on it, letting people see it, making it an object, something people have to look at.

SHEREE ROSE: We're playing with the idea of what's real. People say, "This is so real, this is really Bob," but it isn't exactly. When people see Bob in the hospital bed, it's Bob Flanagan they're seeing, but it's also Bob Flanagan playing Bob Flanagan. And it's only the part of him that he's revealing at that moment, not the totality. When Bob goes up in the air, he goes motionless and quiet, and so does the room. He's a real person, but at the same time he's also this object hanging there, and playing with that concept makes people really uncomfortable.

BF: A woman came in while I was suspended and stood watching me. Then I breathed and coughed, and she said, "How do they do that?" She thought I was a hanging sculpture.

SR: We just finished a video with Andres Serrano where Bob's pulled up to the ceiling of a Jewish synagogue: his body becomes a symbolic object. There's definitely a spiritual thing going on in Bob's work.

BF: Well, for the general population I think it's easier to enter the spiritual realm - it's something they're familiar with. But I'm not comfortable with it.

DD: But in some ways you're not responsible for how your work is seen. Someone can have an epiphany even if you didn't intend her to.

SR: Yes, Bob likes to deny the spiritual side, but for me the idea of him lying on the bed of nails and me symbolically cutting his penis [by cutting the birthday cake that lay on his lower stomach] was spiritually significant. Part of what we've always done together is the subjugation of the male by the female. So my original idea was to have the cake, dripping with cream and raspberry jam, made in the shape of a phallus, and people would be given pieces of it to eat. You could say that was a symbolic castration, or a symbolic eating of the body of Christ. It was a joke, too - we weren't saying you were going to be saved, not at all. But there was that spiritual structure, which I enjoyed playing with.

DD: Even if people aren't religious, they respond to ritual. And what's been going on in Bob's installation is a ritual, especially because it goes on over weeks, is continually enacted and reenacted.

SR: Our friend Karl, an anesthesiologist and also an artist whose work deals with AIDS, has an idea for a performance we'd do together with live medical procedures: an echocardiogram, a catheterization, blood pressure, brain waves. Bob would discuss the procedures while they were happening. He'd be attached to monitors, so people could see his physiology on the spot.

DD: Do you like to look, Bob?

BF: Yes, I look at those things.

DD: I can't - or I look while holding my breath.

SR: I videotaped Bob's echocardiogram once, and you could see the heart moving. It was almost beautiful.

DD: Just as X rays are. I have tons of chest X rays, because of my lung disease, which I used to keep in the closet; I was going to give them to a friend to make artwork with. But then I had to give them up to a doctor. But as much as X rays are beautiful, they're also revolting. I get positively nauseous when I look at mine.

BF: That's just it.

SR: I like the idea of looking at things that are revolting yet can be estheticized. There has to be an art of dying.

DD: So much art has been about mortality.

SR: But Americans like happy endings. That's why they're so upset about this unhappy, victim-type art. They don't want to think about it.

DD: The other thing I find irritating is that it has to be one way or the other: you're either a victim or a hero.

BF: Right. Especially when you add the element of sadomasochism, which is all about control - supposedly the sadist controlling the masochist. But people don't seem to understand that the masochist is also in control. In an S/M relationship, both parties are always exchanging control back and forth, or just playing around with the whole idea of control. The dynamic shifts from moment to moment.

DD: S/M used to be anathema in this culture; now there seems to be an attempt to domesticate it. That just irritates me, because it's much more complicated, or dangerous, than that. Has masochism always been in your work?

BF: Pretty basically. In the visual work definitely [which I began in the mid '80s]. It came into the writing in the early '80s, when I started writing about the death and dying of my sister [who also had cystic fibrosis] and met Sheree. It took me a while to figure out how to have the courage to be honest about the masochism. Because fifteen years ago, people never admitted to the things I was talking about. It was the gay writers I knew, who were writing about sex, who encouraged me to do what I was doing.

DD: What's the relation between your illness, your masochism, and your artmaking?

BF: I probably wouldn't be either an artist or a masochist now if it weren't for being ill. All those days home alone sick when I was a kid left me with little to do but watch TV, draw pictures, fantasize, and play with myself. I was always an artist, making drawings and paintings, being a creative person one way or another. In my early days as a painter I was drawn to van Gogh's self-portraits. And from the earliest age I was playing sadomasochistic games with cousins, and wanting to be the slave all the time. When we got too old to play the game, I continued to play it alone, making all kinds of elaborate mechanisms for bondage and such. So illness, masochism, art - those three things have always carried through, in parallel. I'm very interested in taking the things people find most difficult to deal with - disease, deviant sex, death - and forcing them through the art machine so they come out pretty or at least interesting to look at.

DD: Did you read Bataille and de Sade?

BF: Not till much later. I kind of wish I had had more of that influence earlier on. I probably would have been a more intelligent person.

SR: We were living it and doing it before we knew any theory. The theory, and people who theorized about what we were doing, came later.

BF: It was actually more interesting that way. I was doing all these things by myself. It was only later that I learned other people were doing the things I fantasized about, which really threw me. You know, you go through a phase where you think you're the only one, and here are all these other people all over the world doing them too.

DD: The dominant culture defines what you're supposed to do with your time. But many of us are doing other things.

BF: That's right. Especially if you're home while everyone else is at work. Those are the best hours. I used to wait for my parents to leave for work and then I'd be off into the closets pulling stuff out [laughter].

SR: Both artists and practitioners of sadomasochism love that time alone, when they can explore their bodies and their minds. Artists, especially if they're ill - ill artists, ill sadomasochists [laughs] - need a lot of time alone.

DD: If you're sick and a writer, you can have double isolation. You begin to identify with the space you're in, become part of the space. It can almost be erotic.

BF: Well, there are always those days when you have a lousy date with yourself. I've had plenty of those. My favorite time is when the writing and the sex collide.

SR: Yeah, we've done that.

BF: No, I mean alone. Sorry, we sick people are alone a lot.

SR: It's all right if my rival is Bob [laughter].

BF: There have been times when I'd be sitting at the desk, naked, typing something, and then I'd get really turned on and I'd attach my balls to the desk with pushpins and keep typing. I loved when that happened. It doesn't happen very often - not in a long time. But that's the best writing. A lot of energy gets into it.

DD: Is it hard to get to that space?

BF: Well, I don't have much time alone now, especially since we began Visiting Hours. Doing visual work is much more fun than sitting down by myself to write. Writing is much more difficult.

DD: When I was sick last year, I was in a space cadet-like space that was great for writing. I would go to the computer and words would just come out. Interestingly, the text ended up being as much about desire as about disease. But now that I'm facing a lung transplant, a really surreal experience, I find I can't do anything at all. I seem to have lost my language.

BF: During a month I spent in the hospital in late summer, I began to gather material together, but I haven't anything to show for it yet. Now my job is to turn the objects into words somehow. First I turned the words into objects. Now I have to reverse the process.

1. Visiting Hours originated at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in December of 1992, traveled to the New Museum in New York City (where it remained from 23 September to 31 December 1994), and then to its final venue, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

2. Arlene Croce, "Discussing the Undiscussable," The New Yorker, 26 December 1994/2 January 1995.

RELATED ARTICLE: Excerpt from Flanagan's Pain Journal

I DREAM OF DENNIS 28 September 1995

Dreamt we saw Dennis Cooper, in New York, of course, at some art affair, of course. He seemed shorter and thinner than last we saw him a year ago, also in New York. My eyes teared up as I said I was mad at him for not returning my calls. I almost said, Dennis, I'm dying goddamit, but I resisted, knowing he would run from such chastisement, and I'd probably never see him again . . . so I hugged him and reassured him that I was only mad at him because I missed him. I hugged him and he felt bony. He seemed genuinely embarrassed for neglecting us, and I forgave him, but Sheree wasn't so amenable. She went ahead and held out her arms to embrace him but as he approached her he walked right past. She got pissed and had a "that's-the-last-straw" look on her face, but I saw what had happened. Just as Dennis was about to hug Sheree he walked around her to first shut off the blaring ghetto blaster in the corner. Sheree saw it as a snub. Dennis read Sheree's snub as bottled up anger, which of course would turn him off because even though Dennis is a rude fuck he hates to be called on it and would just as soon say "fuck you" than "excuse me." But I could see that this wasn't a snub and I explained to Dennis why Sheree thought it was and I literally grabbed each of them by the arm and pulled them together until they locked or folded or flopped into an embrace. Sheree's face over Dennis' shoulder seemed relieved to be finally making contact with the great and powerful Dennis. Dennis' face over Sheree's shoulder seemed to be wincing and saying, Christ, what I have to go through just to be Dennis.

WOLF 15 October 1995

Wuz asleep. But now I'm not. Drugged. Groggy. Headache. Sweats. The Prednisone. The Percocet. The Oxazepam. Distracted as I write because I'm watching Jack Nicholson in Wolf on TV. Strangely flat and compelling, possibly completely stupid, but queer as hell. Good TV, nonetheless, for five in the morning. As I said, I was asleep after returning home exhausted from Dana Duff's birthday party in Culver City. Exhausted from dealing with Sheree, stoned and creative and panicking over her "reading" at some leather lesbian soiree. I got real exasperated, fucking nasty with her. The Prednisone. Spent the whole day in Photoshop putting a birthday cake into a 10-year-old photo of Dana and me, and smack dab in the middle of the cake is my big dick (what else) with a candle in it. I think I'm obsessed with these cyber penises of mine because sex in the real world is so much more difficult these days. We did manage to fuck this morning, if that's what you call it. Tweaked a hard-on for the camera and Sheree stuffed it in and rode it a while as she stroked me, and snapped a few photos for Aura Rosenberg's book of men's faces in the throes of orgasm, but there was no orgasm here, thanks to the mighty Zoloft.

Afterward, Sheree did get off a bit with the assistance of the vibrator on her clit and my teeth on her tit. But later that day it was my fangs in her jugular while trying to help her with her damn lesbian piss tape while she raved and yammered and drove me nuts. I didn't mean to be mean. Didn't want to say, Shut up! But I'm just as out of it on my drugs (Prednisone) as she is on hers (pot). It all just made me feel shittier and more anxious, so I took more pills, Oxazepam. Sheree's pretty understanding about the whole thing, or so stoned she doesn't give a shit. So all's right with the world. The sun's coming up. The headache's subsiding (Percocet). And we're watching Wolf. The new day awaits. Grrrrrrr.

200 LB FREAK 6 December 1995

Where do the days disappear to? Drug stew. I blabbed some informative nonsense into the recorder but now (3:00 A.M.) is not the time to transcribe it. . . . So why am I awake here in my lovely hospital bed, the sounds of Perry Mason squeaking through my little bed-rail command post, right next to the up & down controls and the red nurse-head icon which is supposed to summon a friendly comforting nurse to help me through the night to soothe my pain or aid in my comfort? But I don't dare press the symbolic Nightingale because it will only summon the 200-pound Dorothy who just got through informing me she "needs this night like she needs a hole in the head." I was sound asleep but woke up as usual with a pounding headache and a nasty, itchy couching attack, tears running down my cheeks and face all red and puffy. I put my nurse' light on and Dorothy appeared with my nighttime antibiotics, and she was on a tear, nasty as hell. I ask her for Vicodin and Clonopin for my headache and back pain. "I only got two hands, Bob" is what I get. I'm already feeling vulnerable 'cause I fell asleep after a stupid conversation with Sheree about how much time I spend in the hospital away from her, like it was my choice. I'd been in a bad mood all day. I'd been depressed already, even though I'm supposedly getting better. I even took a walk around the halls today, but I'm depressed about the whole process of dying, feeling sorry for myself, pissed at the world, pissed at Michael Jackson, who the press is fawning over because he passed out while rehearsing some big show with Marcel Marceau. Now he's got an IV-drip and he's breathing oxygen through a tube! He's just too fucking stupid to drink a glass of water while he's rehearsing. Asshole! So I was ranting to Sheree, slightly pissed that she didn't come down to see me, but not begging the issue. But she keeps pushing this "hospital or her" routine, and that's just not the way it is. I'm here when I have to be, and I'm the only one who can make that call, and she just better trust that I know how to take the best care of myself to keep myself around the longest so I can be home and doing something worthwhile while I'm there. But tonight Dorothy blows it all by pulling a Nurse Rachet. She gives me my Vicodin and Clonopin and says, "Here, take this one too." "What is it?" I ask. "Poison?" But it's only Theopholin. Gulp. "Would you please shut the overhead light when you leave?" I ask her, ever so gingerly. When I . . . adjust the beeping IV-pump she turns on the bright overhead light again and I wait to see if she remembers to turn the damn thing off when she leaves but I don't dare remind her and of course she doesn't, so I sit here at three in the morning with the light shining as bright as an operating room. So I read my Tod Browning book. At least there's darkness there, and death to scary, oversized freaks.

"Pain Journal: January-August 1995" will appear in Unnatural Disasters: Recent Writings from the Golden State, ed. Nicole Panter (San Diego: incommunicado press, 1996).

Sheree Rose is in the process of setting up the Bob Flanagan Foundation, which will use all future profits from Bob's writing and art to fund grants for artists with physical disabilities and/or artists whose subject matter is too controversial to appeal to conventional organizations that distribute grants. Sheree Rose can be reached by E-mail at msrosebush@aol.com.
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Title Annotation:includes a 1994 interview; artist Bob Flanagan
Author:Cooper, Dennis
Publication:Artforum International
Date:Apr 1, 1996
Words:5607
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