BRICOLAGE

Dick Hebdige adapted the concept of "bricolage" to describe the act of wearing meaning-laden objects (signs) in ways that seem to violate the cosmology (the moral hierarchies) of consumerism that binds the many signs into a cultural system. As working class political opposition has become closed off, opposition in the society of the spectacle is most readily expressed through the category of style. Though the code of commodity culture has always been able to re absorb opposition and turn it into new commodity styles, the Punk subculture's efforts at bricolage upped the ante, and advertisers eventually responded by appropriating and restylizing the bricolaged look, and turning it back into yet another commodity sign. Levi's advertising led the way, and others followed, into a period of 'counter-bricolage.'

This movement between bricolage and commodity counter-bricolage has in its own right been a form of sign wars. Today, the appropriation process has grown so rapid that it can exploit and exhaust a subcultural movement before it as had time to develop -- Grunge is a case in point. Grunge has not only been thoroughly appropriated, its style stolen in a media blitz, the term itself has been adopted by the culture industry as a metaphor for what cultural analysts like ourselves call bricolage. Grunge quickly became a mass media metaphor for the 'new style of mixing things that don't go together.' In this brave new world of hyper-appropriation, anything goes -- retro-looks from any decade are thrown into the blender, so too the political sensibilities of any marginalized subculture -- everything becomes a mish-mash.