French for handyman or do-it-yourselfer, this word has migrated into art and philosophy recently and savants would do well tossing it into their cognitive toolbox. A Bricoleur is a talented tinkerer, the sort who can build anything out of anything: whack off a left-over drain pipe, fasten a loop of tin roofing, dab some paint, and presto a mailbox. If one peers closely all the parts are still there, still a piece of roofing, a piece of pipe, but now the assembly exceeds the sum of the parts and is useful in a different way. In letters a Bricoleur is viewed as an intellectual MacGyver tacking bits of his heritage to sub-cultures about him for a new meaning-producing pastiche.
A Bricoleur is not a new thing, but it has become a new way of understanding old things: Epistemology, the Counter-Enlightenment, and the endless parade of "isms" of the 19th and 20th Centuries: Marxism, Modernism, Socialism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism — the list is endless, and often exclusive, each insisting that the other cannot be. The exegesis of these grand theories by deconstruction — substituting trace for presence — and similar activities during the past century shows these worldviews not as discoveries, instead but assemblies, by creative Bricoleurs who had been working in the background, stapling together meaning producing scenarios from textual bric-a-brac lying about.
Presently, encompassing worldviews in philosophy have been shelved, and master art movements of style and conclusion folded along side it, no more "isms" are being run up the flagpole, because no one is saluting. Pluralism and modest descriptions of the world have become the activity of fine arts and letters, personalization and private worlds the Zeitgeist. The common prediction was that the loss of grand narrative would result in a descent into end-of-history purposelessness, instead everywhere the Bricoleurs are busy manufacturing meaning-eliciting metaphor.
Motion Graphics, Bio-art, Information Art, Net Art, Systems Art, Glitch Art, Hacktivism, Robotic Art, Relational Esthetics and others, all current art movements tossed up by contemporary Bricoleurs in an endless salad. Revisit 19th Century Hudson River landscape painting? Why not. Neo-Rodin, Post-New Media? A Mormon dabbling with the Frankfurt School. Next month. With the quest for universal validity suspended there is a pronounced freedom to assemble lives filled with meaning from the nearby and at-hand, one just needs a Bricoleur.