Luis Geraldes Book
Bricolage and Deconstruction
For the artist generally, and in my art, in particular, two distinct yet related processes occur in the single act of painting: first, connecting modes of perception (the physical with the spiritual), and second, translating the components of the imagination into light, colour and symbol. Contemporary thinkers, including Derrida (1988) use the term “bricolage” to describe these twin activities of the artistic imagination.
The French verb “bricoleur,” has no English equivalent. However, the term is used in colloquial speech to refer to routine processes and activities performed by a handyman. The “bricoleur” performs tasks by capitalising on materials and tools that are at hand, and by incorporating “odds and ends” (Levi-Strauss, 1969:185). In an essay published in honour of Levi Strauss, Genette (1965) defined “bricolage” as the process of putting together ideas and concepts, a process that, to a considerable extent, involves sifting through ideas in order to find connections between different strands of thought. Levi-Strauss had earlier described bricolage not only as an intellectual activity but also as a “mythopoetical activity”, that is, a process of knowledge building that incorporates taken-for-granted assumptions and beliefs of everyday life.
Levi-Strauss, for example, uses the term to explain the similarities and differences in the activities of engineers on the one hand, and scientists on the other: “The scientist creat[es] events, (chang[es] the world) by means of structures and the ‘bricoleur’ creat[es] structures by means of events” (p. 22). More than this, the term can be used also in a more general sense to refer to the symbolic, by using it to describe how an engineer is able to encode concepts and ideas using signs. The term is relevant in the present context, as I am using it to describe the process by which I incorporate ideas, feelings, symbols and materials in the act of creating a work of art.
If bricolage is the act of bringing ideas and things together, the more familiar term, deconstruction, refers to the opposite process of identifying individual components that have been combined to create the whole. On the subject of deconstruction, John Griffiths states: Deconstruction derives from a context of ideas and idea systems, including psychoanalysis and Structuralism, all of which have grand aims. They want to say something momentous about big issues; about the really big issues concealed by the issues we think are big. They are interested above all in human ‘being’, and in the unity of human experience (Griffiths, 1988: 9).
Jacques Derrida is the figure whose writings about the subject stand as the most comprehensive articulation of the concept. In The Truth in Painting, Derrida establishes “painting as a vehicle for speculation“.
Derrida on Deconstruction
Deconstruction as a method of philosophical enquiry is empowering. Deconstruction is, in fact, a Nietzschean outworking of the will to power. It is about the power of criticism. Ironically, it means that as deconstruction succeeds in its task, it draws power to itself-makes itself a centre.
The juxtaposition of various stories are ways used by the artist to render the painting and empower it with knowledge, sufficient wisdom to be and not to be, and to create a confrontation and then allow a deconstruction of it to multiply and confront the viewer with meaning. These devices are used in the postmodern evaluation of paintings on an equal basis as Freud “rendered dreams and slips of the tongue readable rather than dismissing them as mere nonsense or error”. Similarly, Derrida sees signifying force in the gaps, margins, figures, echoes, digressions, discontinuities, contradictions, and ambiguities of a painting. When one writes, or paints, one creates more than (or less than, or other than) one thinks. The reader’s task is to decipher what is painted rather than simply attempt to intuit what might have been meant. The process of deciphering energy, matter, silence, space, and conflict within my paintings opens extremely productive ways of studying the conflicts of the five juxtaposed rectangles and their parallel systems of meanings.
If each painting is seen as presenting a major claim that attempts to dominate, erase, or distort various “other” claims, which go against the grain of the dominant claim, then “deciphering” in its extended sense is deeply involved in questions of authority and power of the meaning of the painting. Meaning includes spatial and temporal aspects; meaning is never itself in the same place as itself but is always just along the line, as the meaning is by virtue of that from which it differs. The reality of what meaning is then opens up to radical question all claims for stability of identity or truth. At the same time, it extends the range of meaning and being, making the world into a network of meanings. An artwork then is only as good as its capacity to entice the viewer to engage with feelings and a level of consciousness that otherwise would not have been encountered.
( to be continued)