BRICOLAGE AS REVOLT

Taken out of its "normal' context and placed in a new subcultural context, the stolen sign becomes a second-order signifier of a new signification, a signification that can not be separated, in my humble opinion, from a relationship with the anti-hegemonic refusal. The myth retains pre-existing cultural knowledge, but as it is meant here in Barthesian terms, it is a construct which is robbed of its original historical significance and reformulated to serve other needs (i.e. those of the dominant paradigm). Roland Barthes wrote, "the essential point in all this is that the form does not suppress the meaning, it only impoverishes it, it puts it at a distance, it holds it at one's disposal" (here as an opposition to hegemony). The style of subculture takes the normal, the innocent object and exposes the contradictions hidden under the ideology of its appearances, and violently renders it a threat to all that is 'normal'.

The innocence of an everyday item's appearances, a diaper safety pin for example, is stolen and transformed into a refusal, a threat to common sense. The invisibility of ideological norms are exposed, making them visible, by the punk who takes that safety pin and shoves it through her cheek. She refuses to accept the order imposed, ordained since birth. She rips open the artificiality of that invisible order, by piercing her face with its innocuousness, refusing to accept the cult of appearances, threatening those appearances, the appearances of hegemony, of fashion. Whole ideologies regarding glamour and appearances are challenged.

Rap, hiphop, and grunge emerged as a contestation of both cultural forms and public space among groups who had been marginalized in terms of labor markets, political parties and housing. Their bricolage, like that of the punks before them, constituted profound political statements in an arena available to them, while the others that we normally associate with political power were closed off to them (Goldman, PForum: HipHopForSale:8-1993)

For example there exists in our society an African American language which takes it form in slang and rap. Yet it is a form of speech that is given little validity, worth, respect except to the extent which white culture appropriates it. In other words it has little cultural capital. If a student were to turn in a paper written in this language, he/she would fail and therefore come to know his/her cultural capital was next to nil. It establishes social and institutional structures which set deviants up to fail or relegates them to a marginalized position. Even so subcultures who are not accepted into the mainstream are finding modes of expression vital to their existence and resistance. To continue the example: throughout history, an outlet for the Af-Am culture has been through the expressive form of music which unfortunately is one of the only safe outlets of protest. These protests have taken the form of gospels or spirituals, blues, jazz, soul and now rap and hiphop. Yet as each one formed it was ultimately appropriated by the dominant white culture (i.e. through the work of musicians like Kenny G (jazz), Marky Mark or Beastie Boys (rap), etc.), depoliticized and incorporated into the hegemonic paradigm. The assimilation of Af-Am culture and music into white culture often became symbolic but politically meaningless gestures of integration. It served only to steal from the African culture in the name of crossing racial barriers without changing the inequity or power relationships.

Bricolage as Revolt