Mario Merz, ‘Igloo, Do We Go Around Houses, or Do Houses Go Around Us?’ 1977, reconstructed 1985
Mario Merz
Igloo, Do We Go Around Houses, or Do Houses Go Around Us? 1977, reconstructed 1985
Tate
© Fondazione Merz

Bricolage is a French wording meaning roughly ‘do-it-yourself’, and it is applied in an art context to artists who use a diverse range of non-traditional art materials.

This approach became popular in the early twentieth century when resources were scarce, and aspects of surrealism, dada and cubism have a bricolage character. But it was not until the early 1960s, with the formation of the Italian movement arte povera, that bricolage took on a political aspect and it was used by artists to bypass the commercialism of the art world. Arte povera artists constructed sculptures out of rubbish in an attempt to devalue the art object and assert the value of the ordinary and everyday.

Since then, artists have continued to make art out of detritus – for example, Tomoko Takahashi constructs vast sculptures of junk found on the streets as a comment on the disposable nature of our culture and society.