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Art of the 1960s has been celebrated as a set of neo-avant-garde practices that irrevocably blurred the line between art and life. This essay argues that Jack Smith, Fred Herko and Paul Thek do so by foregrounding the inevitability of death and dying in unique yet related ways. I argue that works by Smith, Herko and Thek in film, performance and sculpture uniquely stage the radical contingency of the viewing subject. They do so by staging the absolute historicity of death and dying. In short, all three artists articulated new types of dying – that is, distinctly ‘modern deaths’ – gesturing to the impossibility of a trans-historical conception of death.