Professor Joe Hoyle in our Business School often sends me words. This one comes from a known wordsmith, songwriter Bruce Springsteen, who in his memoir Born to Run writes “This concept of bricolage–that less is more, the best solution is the most elegant.”
The Boss has a definition not far off that of the OED, which notes that such art emerges by “appropriating a diverse miscellany of existing materials or sources.” The term is modern, only cropping up in the 1960s.
The OED’s and Springsteen’s definitions remind me of some 1990s discussions about the early developments of hypertext, both pre-Web and afterward, by authors such as Michael Joyce, Carolyn Guyer, and Ed Falco. It was a heady time, though short-lived. We imagined an online utopia of free content, international connection, and endless horizons. Partly, we got it, as well as darker things.
I well recall Joyce proclaiming ominously at a conference that .com sites had just outnumbered all other sites, as if that were not inevitable. In any case, the term “bricoleur” got bandied about quite a bit by us, the digital hipsters and fans of Cyberpunk in the late 80s and early 90s.
What makes bricolage so different from collage, such as those created by my friend, artist Eric Knight?
My sense is that collage is purely visual and made with images and words on paper, rather than the multimedia, often found-object approach of bricolage.
I enjoy both techniques.
If you have a word or metaphor you enjoy, send them by e-mail (jessid -at- richmond -dot- edu) or leaving a comment below.
Image of maker space full of bricolage materials courtesy of Wikipedia.