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For the Amon Tobin album with this name, see Bricolage (album). For the content management system, see Bricolage (software).
See also: Do it yourself

Bricolage, pronounced /ˌbriːkoʊˈlɑːʒ/, /ˌbrɪkoʊˈlɑːʒ/ is a term used in several disciplines, among them the visual arts and literature, to refer to:

  • the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things which happen to be available;
  • a work created by such a process.

It is borrowed from the French word bricolage, from the verb bricoler – the core meaning in French being, "fiddle, tinker" and, by extension, "make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are to hand (regardless of their original purpose)."

A person who engages in bricolage is a bricoleur.



Instrumental Bricolage in music would include the use of found objects as instruments:

  • Irish Spoons
  • Australian slap bass made from a tea chest
  • comb and wax paper for humming through
  • gumleaf humming
  • Largophone (made from a stick and bottle tops)
  • Trinidadian Steel drums (made from industrial storage drums)
  • African drums and thumb pianos made from recycled pots and pans.
  • American super instruments made from recorders and bicycle bells or metal rods and keys

Stylistic Bricolage is the inclusion of common musical devices with new uses. Shuker [1998 Popular Music: Key Concepts ] writes "Punk best emphasized such stylistic bricolage".

Musical Bricolage flourishes in music of sub-cultures where:

  • experimentation is part of daily life (pioneers, immigrants, artistic communities),
  • access to resources is limited (such as in remote, discriminated or financially disconnected sub-cultures) which limits commercial influence (eg. acoustic performers, gypsies, ghetto music, hippie, folk or traditional musicians) and
  • there is a political or social drive to seek individuality (eg. Rap music, peace-drives, drummers circles)

Unlike other bricolage fields

  • intimate knowledge of resources is not necessary (many Punk musicians are not classically trained. Classical training discourages creativity in preference for accuracy).
  • careful observation and listening is not necessary, it is common in spontaneous music to welcome 'errors' and disharmony.

Like other bricolage fields, Bricolage music still values

  • trusting one's ideas
  • self-correcting structures (targeted audiences, even if limited)

Visual Art[]

In art, bricolage is a technique where works are constructed from various materials available or on hand, and is seen as a characteristic of postmodern works.

These materials may be mass-produced or "junk". See also: Merz, polystylism, collage.

Bricolage can also be applied to theatrical form of improvisation. More commonly known as Improv. The idea of using one's environment and materials which are at hand is the main goal in Improv. The environment is the stage and the materials are often pantomimed. The use of the stage and the imaginary materials are all made up on the spot so the materials which are at hand ar actually things that the players know from past experiences. (i.e. an improvisation of ordering fast food: One player would start with the common phrase "How May I help You").


Cultural studies[]

In cultural studies bricolage is used to mean the processes by which people acquire objects from across social divisions to create new cultural identities. In particular, it is a feature of subcultures such as, for example, the punk movement. Here, objects that possess one meaning (or no meaning) in the dominant culture are acquired and given a new, often subversive meaning. For example, the safety pin became a form of decoration in punk culture.


In his book The Savage Mind' (1962, English translation 1966), French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss used the word bricolage to describe any spontaneous action, further extending this to include the characteristic patterns of mythological thought. The reasoning here being that, since mythological thought is all generated by human imagination, it is based on personal experience, and so the images and entities generated through 'mythological thought' rise from pre-existing things in the imaginer's mind. [1]

Jacques Derrida extends this 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." [2]

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, in their 1972 book Anti-Oedipus, identify bricolage as the characteristic mode of production of the schizophrenic producer.[3]


In biology the biologist François Jacob uses the term bricolage to describe the apparently cobbled-together character of much biological structure, and views it as a consequence of the evolutionary history of the organism. [4]


In the discussion of constructionism Seymour Papert discusses two styles of solving problems. Contrary to the analytical style of solving problems he describes bricolage as a way to learn and solve problems by trying, testing, playing around.

Joe L. Kincheloe has used the term bricolage in educational research to denote the use of multiperspectival research methods. In Kincheloe's conception of the research bricolage, diverse theoretical traditions are employed in a broader critical theoretical/critical pedagogical context to lay the foundation for a transformative mode of multimethodological inquiry. Using these multiple frameworks and methodologies researchers are empowered to produce more rigorous and praxiological insights into socio-political and educational phenomena. Kincheloe theorizes a critical multilogical epistemology and critical connected ontology to ground the research bricolage. These philosophical notions provide the research bricolage with a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of knowledge production and the interrelated complexity of both researcher positionality and phenomena in the world. Such complexity demands a more rigorous mode of research that is capable of dealing with the complications of socio-educational experience. Such a critical form of rigor avoids the reductionism of many monological, mimetic research orientations (see Kincheloe, 2001, 2005; Kincheloe & Berry, 2004).

Popular Culture[]


MacGyver is a television series in which the protagonist is the paragon of a bricoleur.[5]

Information technology[]

Information systems[]

In information systems, bricolage is used by Claudio Ciborra to describe the way in which Strategic Information Systems (SIS) can be built in order to maintain successful competitive advantage over a longer period of time than standard SIS. By valuing tinkering and allowing SIS to evolve from the bottom-up, rather than implementing it from the top-down, the firm will end up with something that is deeply rooted in the organisational culture that is specific to that firm and is much less easily imitated.[6]

There is also a content management system called Bricolage.


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. In this style of coding, the programmer works without an exhaustive preliminary specification, opting instead for a step-by-step growth and re-evaluation process. In her essay Epistemological Pluralism, Turkle writes: "The bricoleur resembles the painter who stands back between brushstrokes, looks at the canvas, and only after this contemplation, decides what to do next."


Organization and Management[]

Karl Weick identifies the following requirements for successful bricolage in organizations.[7]

  • intimate knowledge of resources
  • careful observation and listening
  • trusting one's ideas
  • self-correcting structures, with feedback


  1. Claude Lévi-Strauss, La Pensée sauvage (Paris, 1962). English translation as The Savage Mind (Chicago, 1966). ISBN 0-226-47484-4. See also [1] [2]
  2. Jacques Derrida, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences"
  3. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane. Continuum edition. London: Continuum, 2004 (1972). p.7-8.
  4. Molino, Jean (2000). "Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Music and Language", The Origins of Music. Cambridge, Mass: A Bradford Book, The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-23206-5. (p.169). See also "Bicoid, nanos, and bricolage" by PZ Myers.
  5. Ian Bogost, Comparative Video Game Criticism, Games and Culture, Vol. 1, No. 1, 41-46 (2006).
  6. Ciborra, Claudio (1992). "From Thinking to Tinkering: The Grassroots of Strategic Information Systems", The Information Society 8, 297-309
  7. Karl Weick, "Organizational Redesign as Improvisation", reprinted in Making Sense of the Organization


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