The Home as a Bricolage

Basically, almost everything around us is a sign. The people’s task is to decode signs making their conclusions and trying to understand the world with their help. Similarly, our homes are full of symbols that can tell other individuals about us. The given creative abilities of humans, one can assume that people fill their homes not only with functional things, such as a bed to sleep on and a table to eat at. However, there are many other objects that can be used in different ways, probably not intended for their initial purpose. Such an assembly is called bricolage with the exact definition being the “mode of adaptation where things are put to uses for which they were not intended and in ways that dislocate them from their normal or expected context”. In particular, pictures and artworks are something that goes beyond its intentional application to show the mastery of a remarkable painter or to show the skills of a young photographer. People may keep decorative elements in order to make a statement about who they are and what they like. One should look at interior design through the concepts of denotation and connotation, visible and invisible, the code and the message. Therefore, the person may respond not only to the visible layer of a chair to sit on but as an intention to show irony, humor, fashion savviness, and similar emotions. Taken as a bricolage, my living room consciously expresses my identity of an art and book lover, as well as a creative person. I got this idea at the extended essays topics list. 

Semiotics studies signs in human life. Even though the language is the first example of systems of symbols there are other fields where semiotics can be applied. Design is one of such spheres. Roland Barthes has offered several concepts of semiotics. The Code and Message principle suggests that everything people do can be decoded and read as a message. If a person raises hand with a thumb up standing next to a road it means the request to have a ride. If people wear black, in the Western culture, it may mean mourning or belonging to a gothic subculture. Referring to my room, oil paintings on the wall are the codes of my art tastes. Meanwhile my guests can decode them and receive the message of my art loving or not, if they are not well-informed about art.

However, according to Barthes’ concept of Denotation and Connotation, even the worst educated and the least interested in art guests should pick up a connotation of an art-loving individual or at least a high-brow. The reason is that art of any kind often is associated with high culture among individuals who are very far from art and art-loving people. At the same time, the explicit meaning of my MacBook, i.e. denotation, is an electronic device for surfing the Internet and doing college papers. Meanwhile its implicit meaning, i.e. connotation, picked up by many people of the present time is that I admire Steve Jobs and love sleek forms.

Furthermore, Barthes has operated the concepts of denotation and connotation to point out to the creation of ideology or a myth. In order to make people believe something or agree with some positions, the specific symbols and signs are used. They can connote the necessary meaning. If, for example, I want to look like an art lover, I should fill my house with art objects. For example, my room is full of pieces of modern furniture. The reason is that I am young and flatter myself to have taste. Therefore, the connotation of my room is youth and taste, whereas I could have a classical sofa with carved legs and be recognized as an Empire style lover. If I want to look like literate and erudite, I will install cases filled with books.

Many books at someone’s house do not mean that the owner is really well-read or educated, until the one starts speaking and asking. However, the connotation of literature at one place is knowledge, inquiry and intelligence. Therefore, within my house I suggest the ideology of a young and well-educated person who loves art and books.

Moreover, Barthes has introduced the concept of closed and open systems. The former system insists on one interpretation, while the latter one accepts different versions. In this connection, Barthes talks about Anchorage and Relay. For example, in my room, there is a drawing easel because I used to paint but now I keep it simply as a great decorative element. Therefore, according to the Anchorage principle, it anchors the meaning of implying some connection to art and painting. Its function determines its sense when someone spots it at my place. In Anchorage, my easel serves my ideological functions and promotes the idea of being an art lover. Moreover, it serves the meaning I have chosen in advance.

Another important scholar of semiotics is Charles Sanders Peirce who has singled out icon, index, and symbol as the three categories of signs. In terms of interior design, any image or a graph is an icon. The reason is that it “resembles its conceptual object in a certain way”. An image or a photograph can be the index because it is “a real thing … which is a sign of its object by virtue of being connected with it as a matter of fact”. However, also a weathervane is an index or pointing hand. Meanwhile, a national flag is a symbol as well as “the relationship between the sign and its conceptual object are entirely arbitrary”. Therefore, my room expressed in terms of Peirce’s concept has all these elements. I have many pictures and photographs, especially my self-portrait, which falls under the definition of both the icon and index. As the index literally points at something, I have the particular image meaning the same thing. It hangs next to the door. It is a collage portrait of a girl who asks ”Chi ?”. It means from Italian “Who’s there?”. Therefore, the picture indicates the front door and knocks the door by strangers.

In the book Design for the Real World, Victor Papanek argues that it is the human nature to be designers. Therefore, people are able to design something throughout all their lives. Not necessarily it should be something related to art: “But design is also cleaning and reorganizing a desk drawer, pulling an impacted tooth, baking an apple pie, choosing sides for a backstop baseball game, nd educating a child”. Basically, Papanek’s idea is “to impose meaningful order”, thus, the “design must be meaningful”. Probably that is why people appreciate fashion and design styles. Individuals praise design styles and reproach mismatched furniture. Even now, when mismatch is valued by the people who know how to organize things into a mismatched style rather than they crowded together without any order or design. Apart from doing a regular design of my room such as cleaning and dusting, I sometimes rearrange furniture. Doing this way, I pursue the objective of hiding some shortfalls of the room. Often I simply move my furniture pieces just for the sake of a better decorative effect and pleasing aesthetics. However, in any case, my rearrangements are meaningful. The reason is that I have a general idea of what I have and what I want to get.

Penny Spark writes about an overriding characteristic of modernism in the first half of the twentieth century, as “the strong moral imperative”. The well-done design pieces of that time had to be less decorative than as habitual before in the belief that it “engender[ed] morality and truth” (Sparke 80). Even though now the existing ideologies do not cling to morality and truth, new values are reigning in modern society. People have now developed the penchant to take care of nature and their health. They have increasingly chosen ecological materials such as wood, concrete, ceramic tiles, natural fabrics, wool, etc. Therefore, contemporary designs look as minimalistic as modernist designs used to look but with a new ideological underpinning.

In conclusion, my room rather explicitly reveals my identity as art aficionado and avid book reader. It is done through the connotative meanings of artworks and books. At the same time, I am presented as a contemporary person. The reason is that I mix different furniture pieces and somewhat different styles into an eclectic mix or a bricolage. It is done in order to show that I am an edgy and up-to-date individual who is aware of interior design possibilities and advantages. Sometimes I keep the things for the sake of their beauty rather than their functions. It plays up my ideology of an art connoisseur. For example, I currently do not use a drawing easel for its intended purpose. However, I still keep it for the vibe it gives and its abstract shape as well as beauty. I keep a sofa and a table, chairs and a lamp for their functionality as well as their aesthetic qualities. In such way, I assemble my bricolage of the room with paintings, photographs and drawings, as well as the objects for other uses than intended. For example, a road sign may be used as a picture or a national flag of the UB not as a signifier of my nationality though as homage to the country I like. Following the footsteps of remarkable semiotics, I train my eye to see and decode the symbols of everyday life.


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