PRINT December 1993


Watching someone drive a nail through his penis isn’t usually my idea of a compelling art experience, but Bob Flanagan is something else. When Bob hammers that nail through his member while telling a joke or personal anecdote to his video camera, he’s trying less to shock than to make us reconsider the topography of desire, and the relationship between bodies and egos. In addition, he’s recounting the story of his life: known for over a decade as a poet and preeminent masochist, Flanagan, aged 40, has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that destroys most sufferers by adolescence. Taking these identities as a jumping-off point, Flanagan has created a body of art that’s autobiographical without being confessional, and that reflects on the complex cultural roots of his peculiar appetites.

Last winter, Flanagan’s Visiting Hours transformed a space at the Santa Monica Museum of Art into a

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