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Bob Flanagan’s Book of Medicine

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Sheree Rose and Bob Flanigan photographed by Michael Del SolBob Flanagan was one of the more interesting personalities from the early body piercing scene. He was a performance artist, writer, poet, and musician, and a very public S/M practitioner. His mistress and partner, Sheree Rose, has been working with designer, artist, and writer Rhiannon Aarons to publish Bob Flanagan’s Book of Medicine on the twentieth anniversary of his death. They are fundraising to finish the project, and are close to reaching their goal. We’re contributing, and we’re urging everyone to help fund it along with us. The deadline is January 24, 2017, so there’s not too much more time to ensure a piece of body piercing history finally sees publication.

In the project’s video, Sheree describes The Book of Medicine:

“Bob was a wonderful poet; A lot of people don’t really recognize that. He was more famous for nailing his penis to a board, but that was just one small part of him. His poetry meant a lot, and his idea was to do an alphabetical… like a book, like a dictionary…. from A to Z, and everything would be sort of ideas that he had, life experiences, sort of like a biography, an autobiography, but slightly abstracted. So it has poems in it, it has sonnets in it, it has his complaining… it has everything in it, everything from A to Z.”

And yes, Bob was well known for nailing his penis to a board.

Book cover for Bob Flanagan: SupermasochistUpon his death in 1996, at the age of 43, Bob Flanagan was the longest living survivor of cystic fibrosis, surviving for over a decade longer than most who suffer from the disease. Bob was an avid BDSM practitioner, as it helped him deal with the physical and emotional pain of his illness. In conjunction with Sheree, Bob created art that chronicled his personal struggles and their sexual life together—and body piercing was a big part of it.

Many piercers were first introduced to Sheree through her interview in Modern Primitives, first published in 1989. Sheree spoke enthusiastically about her experiences with body piercing as part of the S/M subculture, and in particular about her relationship with Bob. She was an avid chronicler of the sexual underground, and it has been written about her work with Flanagan: “They challenge ideas about authorship, expression, and the line between public and private life. Their history is worth knowing not for what they did to art, but for what they did to love and sex.”

Movie Poster for Bob Flanagan's SICKBob was featured in a book of his own when RE/Search published Bob Flanagan: Supermasochist in 1993, and he was later famously profiled in the 1997 documentary Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist, directed by Kirby Dick. The film chronicles the last several years of Flanagan’s life—he agreed to participate in the project with the condition that his death be included—in which he candidly explains his use of BDSM (including temporary and permanent piercings) for not only sexual gratification, but also as a way to regain control over his body from cystic fibrosis. Perhaps even more well-known is Bob’s role in the oft-banned Nine Inch Nails video for “Happiness is Slavery,” while you can see a more graphic performance (including plenty of temporary piercing) in the video for Danzig’s “It’s Coming Down“—including Bob nailing his penis to a board.

In addition to his performance art he was a published author, with noteworthy works being Fuck Journal, Pain Journaland A Taste of Honey (with David Trinidad), several of which are available as “project perks” for donating toward the publication of Bob’s final manuscript. It doesn’t take a large individual commitment to make the publication of this book happen and help make a piece of our history finally see publication. Join us in contributing toward the publication of Bob Flanagan’s Book of Medicine. Don’t let this artifact of modern piercing history be lost to obscurity.

Update: The project has been funded! Additional contributions will be accepted through 02/23/17.

Nine Inch Nails: Happiness In Slavery (Uncensored) (1992) from Nine Inch Nails on Vimeo.

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Posted in: Body Mod History

Tagged: Bob Flanagan Sheree Rose

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