June 21, 2017

"Bricolage is a French loanword that means the process of improvisation in a human endeavor."

"The word is derived from the French verb bricoler ('to tinker'), with the English term DIY ('Do-it-yourself') being the closest equivalent...."
Instrumental bricolage in music includes the use of found objects as instruments... In art, bricolage is a technique where works are constructed from various materials available or on hand... Bricolage is considered the jumbled effect produced by the close proximity of buildings from different periods and in different architectural styles... In literature, bricolage is affected by intertextuality, the shaping of a text's meanings by reference to other texts.... In cultural studies bricolage is used to mean the processes by which people acquire objects from across social divisions to create new cultural identities....
AKA cultural appropriation.
In his book The Savage Mind (1962, English translation 1966), French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss used "bricolage" to describe the characteristic patterns of mythological thought...

In her book Life on the Screen (1995), Sherry Turkle discusses the concept of bricolage as it applies to problem solving in code projects and workspace productivity. She advocates the "bricoleur style" of programming as a valid and underexamined alternative to what she describes as the conventional structured "planner" approach...

The fashion industry uses bricolage-like styles by incorporating items typically utilized for other purposes. For example, candy wrappers are woven together to produce a purse. The movie Zoolander parodies this concept with "Derelicte", a line of clothing made from trash.

MacGyver is a television series in which the protagonist is the paragon of a bricoleur...

The A-Team, the 80s television series, uses bricolage as a means to create alternative escapes or weapons in every episode, for example, building from scrap a tank that fired cabbages.
I got to that Wikipedia article after looking up the word "bricoleur" in this 1982 NYT review of Paul Theroux's "Mosquito  Coast" (which I recently read and am rereading). From the review:
[The main character, Allie Fox] is, by his own account, a kind of industrial Darwinist, a comber of beaches and dumps: ''The things that get to this beach are indestructible remnants that survived the storms and tides and the bite of the sea. They've proved themselves - stood the test of weather and time. By putting them to use, we are making a settlement that can't be destroyed. Your average Crusoe castaway lives like a monkey. But I'm no fool. Take those toilet seats. That's natural selection.'' But if Father's theories are suspect, his practice is astonishingly effective. As the centerpiece of his creation at Jeronimo, this inspired bricoleur constructs his masterwork, a gigantic edifice of old pipes and boilerplate which, in effect, transforms fire into ice.
Question that occurred to me, reading the Wikipedia bricolage about bricolage: What is bricolage in politics? Is Trump a bricoleur?

40 comments:

Ron said...

from the folks who brought you decolletage! Woo Hoo!

Nonapod said...

It's weird that bricolage and collage are somewhat similar in meaning and sound but don't share a common etymology.

tcrosse said...

I believe it was Duke Ellington whose band was playing an outdoor concert. Some jet aircraft flew over, and the band incorporated their racket into the music. Afterwards the Duke said something to the effect that We are Primitive Artists and we do what we can with the materials at hand.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I looked up the definition of "syncretism" not too long ago but I can't remember why.

Fen said...

I believe it's important we study French language - it's so beautiful - before they go extinct.

Ann Althouse said...

The etymology from the OED: "< French bricolage do-it-yourself (1927; in spec. use in literary criticism C. Lévi-Strauss La Pensée Sauvage (1962) i. 26) < bricoler to do small chores (a1859), to fix something ingeniously (1919; 1480 in Middle French in sense ‘to go to and fro’) < bricole bricole n. + -age -age suffix.(Show Less)"

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Thirty-six years ago, I applied for a job working for a small company in an industrial park that reconditioned smelting equipment. The guy said, "Things are pretty loose around here. If we don't have the right tool then we make do with a screwdriver or something."

That I remember . . . although I did not know the word "bricolage" at the time. Heck, maybe I remember it because I did not know the word "bricolage" at the time

But you know what I really liked? Remember those TV commercials for the Swiss cough drops? Those guys with the big alpenhorns?

BREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECOLAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!!!!!

buwaya said...

A related term, in the practice of French affairs, is debrouillage - le Systeme D.
In other words, the process of coming up with expedient, unofficial solutions on the spur of the moment. In a world of systems, rules, and complex technology that cant be untangled in a systematic way, le Systeme D is the way forward.

traditionalguy said...

Leggo building sets are bricolage practice. And yes, Trump is a builder who sees the parts that must be assembled and gets it done. Then he moves on to another project in a blur of speed the MSM interprets as confusion.

But we hired him to do this Aegean Stable job fast. And the MSM is deathly afraid that he will succeed early and under budget.

rhhardin said...

Derrida focussed on bricolage in Of Grammatology "The Violence of the Letter: From Levi-Strauss to Rousseau."

[B]y bricolage, one conserves the idea of bricolage, one must know that all bricolagews are not equally worthwhile. Bricolage criticizes itself.

D. B. Light said...

Excellent observation, Ann. Trump indeed does combine various disparate political themes into a semi-coherent whole that, to date, has been extremely successful. Trump as the political McGuyver, I like it.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Excellent observation, Ann. Trump indeed does combine various disparate political themes into a semi-coherent whole that, to date, has been extremely successful. Trump as the political McGuyver, I like it.


But since he's a Russian puppet /sarc, On molodyets.

Earnest Prole said...

Is Trump a bricoleur?

Very perceptive. To apply another French word, Trump is an arbitrageur: He perceived and exploited market inefficiencies in how Republican and Democratic elites served/exploited their constituencies/serfs.

Pianoman said...

A modern example of this in music is "Stomp".

They make music with junk. Amazing stuff.

tcrosse said...

Another cultural appropriation. Quelle dommage.

Nonapod said...

I also totally agree that Trump is politically bricoleur. Trump is also an anti-ideologue, he doesn't like things that are immutable or absolute.

I don't know if a person could be both politically bricoleur and an ideologue.

tcrosse said...

One man's bricoleur is another man's opportunist.

Bad Lieutenant said...

"Use what works." -- Bruce Lee, bricoleur/debrouillard.

Hagar said...

Some time ago I listened to Brit Hume telling Donald Trump and us that winning the presidency was well and good, but that it was now time for Trump to settle down, quit his silly tweeting, and work with the established political and bureaucratic power centers.
No Mr. Hume. To borrow a line from Chevy Chase:

Donald J. Trump is president and you are not.

A New York real estate developer and TV game show producer in the P.T. Barnum tradition may not have been our dream candidate, but we elected Mr. Trump because at least he was not like you. Now his actual government is doing quite well - beyond our expectations, if not yours - and it behooves you and the established political and bureaucratic power centers to settle down, adjust to the Donald's style, and work with him to govern the country for the general welfare of its citizens as they have expressed their will to be.

Hagar said...

Come to think of it, I believe P.T. Barnum also retired from the circus business, ran for office, and became a moderately successful politician, if not president, in his declining years.

khematite said...

Not to mention Constitutional Bricolage:

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/1000.html

BN said...

Words are sometimes borrowed from foreign language to euphemize what ought not be said in polite company. In this case, "bricolage" is a word that means nothing to English speakers but is used in place of either of 2 words with similar endings that cannot be used any more because they made fun of Germans and African Americans who ingeniously and cheaply solved problems with material at hand.

In French, I'm guessing "bricolage" disparages some group or other, we just don't know it.

Ann Althouse said...

@rh

Derrida was in the Wikipedia article. I edited it out because I didn't want to over-quote and thought concrete things worked better. But here's the sentence they gave him:

"Jacques Derrida extends [Lévi-Strauss's] notion to any discourse. "If one calls bricolage the necessity of borrowing one's concept from the text of a heritage which is more or less coherent or ruined, it must be said that every discourse is bricoleur.""

Clyde said...

"Loan word"? Hey, we're the English language! We keep all of the words we take. We're not giving anything back!

Bad Lieutenant said...

fun of Germans and African Americans who ingeniously and cheaply solved problems with material at hand.


Not Germans, that's jury-rigging not jerry-rigging. LOL.

BN said...

Jury-rigging is jerry-rigging in New Jersey.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Jury-rigging is jerry-rigging in New Jersey.



Savages.

Char Char Binks said...

Winging it.

Earnest Prole said...

Despite the French word the approach is distinctly American. I’m reminded of J.S. Holliday’s quote from Gold Fever and the Making of California: “Most improvements in mining equipment gained their start from the primary rule, ‘let’s see if it will work.’” Today’s version is “Let’s ship some code and see what happens.”

Daniel Jackson said...

I came to France a number of years ago to participate in Les Beaux Arts; but, all I found was Bricolage. I have studied a number of Masters of the Art-Form and heard untold hours of discourse on deconstruction, etc (as the French are fond of saying).

In the end, bricolage is simply a variation of KITSCH; or, crap by any other name. At best, I find it matches their sense of an economy: RULES? We don't need no stinkin' rules!

Sebastian said...

"bricoler to do small chores (a1859), to fix something ingeniously (1919)" Interesting. I checked A la Recherche etc., which we here at Hillbilly Mansion humblebraggingly think is a pretty good book: nothing in Proust yet. Could this be the one verb he never used? OT: there ought to be a list of words Proust didn't use.

Anyway, the shortsighted Dem derangement also shows their intellectual dishonesty. Not talking about the Congress and TV hacks and flacks, of course, though they set the tone. But any pseudo-Derridaean Levi-Straussian lefty could interpret seriously what Trump is doing. As righty commentaries on this very blog began to do during the campaign, though unfortunately taking instruction from Baudrillard. But for the left it is now all war, all the time.

William said...

I'll never use bricoleur in conversation. Hermeneutics neither. I know these words have meaning, but I can't quite comprehend them. Solipsism is kind of tricky too. I'm okay with ineluctable modalities, however.

Jeff Teal said...

And attempting to use a French term for an essentially American or peasant just insures that the Americans will look down at the snooties.

Char Char Binks said...

It's unnecessary for us to use the word bricolage, since we have so many other ways of saying the same thing in English. I still may do it, because using the word is itself a kind of bricolage, appropriating a term we found lying around in another language and adapting it for our own use.

Char Char Binks said...

Re Tradguy and Legos.

ISWYDT

rhhardin said...

Levi-Strauss couldn't see what he was doing in introducing bricolage because the move was itself bricolage. It kept him from thinking past it. It was both use and mention.

rhhardin said...

If you want to create what seems to be a philosophical origin in your theory of everything, use a term that's both use and mention at once.

In explaining the origin of language, you might go with wiring in the brain.

Wiring is writing, so you're explaining language by importing language.

It seems perfect at the time.

rhhardin said...

In the beginning was the word and the word was God...

rhhardin said...

Yahweh molded Adam from the earth's dust (adamah), and blew into the nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living being.

A literary effect explaining the origin of life as a literary effect.

takirks said...

How on earth can you mention this bit of French, and not include the very epitome of bricolage, the well-known French Systeme D?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System_D

It's an interesting bit of cultural trivia, and more interesting that the French, Germans, and others have to have a formal concept of this, which is very nearly routine daily operations for most Americans and Englishmen...