Bevis Fenner is an artist-researcher based in Southampton. After completing a practice-based PhD at Winchester School of Art he decided to abandon the path of the artist-precariat to focus on a personal phenomenological exploration of art practice beyond the trajectory of the forever emerging artist. Instead of identifying as ‘an artist’ he refers to himself as an ‘everyday tourist’ to avoid committing to either the economically-rationalised entrepreneurial ‘freedoms’ of the neoliberal era or the art-world-endorsed acetic orthodoxies and politically instrumentalised self-sacrifice of life as a jobbing artist. He uses painting, collage, photography, video, installation, performance, arts-led projects and relational practice to investigate the complex relationship between work and leisure in neoliberal society, as well as exploring ways of developing unofficial forms of ‘tourism’ as part of the practice of everyday life.
Mediating the tensions of object production in an age where an invisible line is seemingly drawn between immaterial labour of personal ethical principles and shameless commercialism, his practice explores the relationship between art, leisure and the lived labour of everyday life. As well as breaking down the boundaries between art and everyday life, he also questions the relationship between art, creativity and subjective labour in the neoliberal era, with the aim of liberating the ontological dimensions of art / life practice from their socio-economic function as means of regulating the ebbs and flows of capital that surround our living labour. Moreover, his ‘work’ seeks liberation from its instrumentalisation as an apparatus of what Foucault terms ‘biopower’.
Fenner suggests that beyond our pursuit of imagined freedoms / outsides of politically and economically rationalised forms of labour, are forms of social life, community and personal-ontological value that have space to live in the slowness of everyday rituals. Indeed, in an age of endless work, where there is increasingly no distinction between work and non-work, regulation of labour and pursuit of identity, his work calls for art / work rituals that negate normative conditions of immaterial labour in reintroducing the corporeal and the material to the work of everyday life. Recent works have engaged aspects of ritual magic and folklore to regain the power of art in an age where both art and creative practice have had to justify themselves in terms of economic rationalism and social utility. By focusing on art practice as a form of performance rather than simply a source of object production, he also aims to reinstate the symbolic origins of art as a key aspect of the practice of everyday life; bringing recognition to art as everyday life rather than a discrete and specialist field.