Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bricolage, put it together

A bricoleur is a person who creates things from scratch. They take raw materials like broken pots or garbage and old bikes, and make art. A bricoleur is also a person who collects information, from equally varied and wide flung sources, and pieces them together in creative and resourceful ways to articulate something new. In information technology, bricolage is an open source content management system[1] similar to Linux. In biology, it is a term used in reference to the evolutionary history of an organism.[2] Culturally, Claude Levi-Strauss used the term to understand the American poor living in ghettos. Bricolage was a term for their strange dress, rituals, bizarre attitudes, and public art they used as rhetorical challenges to the law.[3] Similar examples exist outside of the USA, Lypton Village, for example, was made recently famous through the memoirs of U2’s Bono.[4]

Christ followers in the 21st century must become bricoleurs, engaging in cultural exegesis and pop theology with verve equal to the intellectual requirements of a world that grows smarter every day. We must understand “life as ministry, work as mission, and play as worship”,[5] and see that what is true in art is also true in spirituality, that “genius has to do with convergence.”[6] The Church must once again become the meeting place for architecture, theatre, literature, and conversation. She must reclaim her true self from the sanitized and sterile model she has become in her modern manifestation. She must overcome her fear of cross-pollination, of being polluted. Towards this end we shall acquire objects and symbols from “across social divisions to create new cultural identities”[7] and create a new punk[8] to rediscover creation with God.

For many, this has already begun. Dave Tomlinson notes that post-evangelicals (his term for Christ followers in the postmodern era) “are more at ease with a box of components that can be constructed into several different pieces of furniture”[9] than with a strict plan and set of materials. As bricoleurs, we must employ this ease to escape the silliness of Christian subculture and folk art. We must again explore beauty as an attribute of God.

Our theology of beauty is frequently represented in our church services, for better or for worse. “Everything in the service needs to preach” says Pastor Mark Driscoll “[from the] architecture, lighting, songs, prayers, fellowship, the smell, it all preaches…to experience God is often the highest form of knowing.”[10] This thinking recalls the biblical examples of the musician King David and Bezalel, the son of Uri, who was filled with the spirit of God and had skill, knowledge and ability in all kinds of crafts.[11] It is the thought of beauty and an offering. It is a thought of love given.

We were created to be creators. If this were not so, then why didn’t God create everything for us? If we are to live on bread, why did He not create a bread tree? God takes pleasure in our imitation of Him and of His creative ability. He would rather we partner with Him than simply mope after Him, for we are made in His image and likeness.[12] He is a craftsman,[13] a singer,[14] a weaver,[15] and an architect[16] – how could He expect any less from us when we are motivated to follow Him?

The time is ripe for bricolage. We must recover a spirituality of creativity, resourcefulness and clever frugality. We must embrace the path of the bricoleur and find meaning in the “mysteries, ambiguities, and paradoxes of faith.”[17] We must put it all together so a broken world can know what it looks like.

[1] Cf.
[2] Cf.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Cf. Assayas, Michka. Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas (London: Riverhead, 2005).
[5] Frost, Alan and Michael Hirsch. The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church, (Auckland: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), 127.
[6] LePage, Robert. Connecting Flights (Quebec: Theatre Communications Group, 1999), 67.
[7] Cf.
[8] 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. Cf.
[9] Tomlinson, Dave. The Post-Evangelical (Grand Rapids: EmergentYS, 1995), 87.
[10] as quoted in “Out of the Box: Authentic Worship in a Postmodern Culture”, Worship Leader (May/June, 1998), 25.
[11] Cf. Exodus 35.30-32.
[12] Cf. Genesis 9.6, Acts 17.28
[13] Cf. Psalm 102
[14] Cf. Zephaniah 3.17
[15] Cf. Psalm 139.15
[16] Cf. Psalm 102.25
[17] Tomlinson, Dave. The Post-Evangelical (Grand Rapids: EmergentYS, 1995), 30.

No comments:

Post a Comment