Museum of broken relationships

On my recent trip to Zagreb, Museum of Broken Relationships was a must see. ‘This Museum is a physical and virtual public space created with the sole purpose of treasuring and sharing heartbreak stories and symbolic possessions.’ It started as an art project of Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić in 2006 after their break up (break ups can also be good sometimes, as the founders are prosperous business partners now).

The collection houses more than 2000 items, sent in by people, who went through a break up. ‘Each memento of a relationship past is accompanied by a personal, yet anonymous story of its contributor.’

Before my visit I was thinking a lot about the emotional state I was in and how going into that museum would affect me. Also, how are other visitors affected? I was eager to see if the exploitation of failed relationships of others will help me on my journey of looking for love. And is it therapeutic to see the farewells of other people? Can random stories end your own suffering over a broken heart?

Upon entering the museum and quickly glancing around, different questions appeared in my head. How long after a break up does one contribute to the collection? As, I guess, at first you want to burn all the things that remind you of your former lover. Maybe you want to keep some as reminders of the good times you had? Is giving an item away actually saying goodbye? And to circle back to the question of when is the right time to do it: a contributor has to go through his/her moments of ‘love and hate’ once again when writing the experience down for us to dwell in. Therefore, one might need some time to pass, to look on ones life story (and the item) objectively, to properly say goodbye. I don’t know, I am just thinking out loud. Though some items in the exhibition were decades old, which might mean some really needed a lot of time to say goodbye (taking into consideration that that kind of museum only opened a few years back, meaning they were clinging onto objects of their former lovers for tens of years..).


In short, the items exhibited used to be a part of relationships that failed, accompanied with short personal anecdotes. Exhibition is a folk collection, I could say a sort of an anthropological study and an insight into current and former society (collaborators are from all around the globe). Some of the contributors’ stories might be thoroughly studied, as they pose good insights into what to avoid in relationships. However, you also come across inspiring words on how different people perceive love.

On times it is really heartbreaking reading these stories, but seeing how (for us) totally random objects get their true meaning through written word, is beautiful. You can read how falling in love actually affects people; all from momentary love stories to long term relationships that drifted apart. Sometimes you smile, sometimes you cry with them. This is my kind of museum, exploring your whole range of emotions and bringing you back in the present moment through it. As a visitor you are definitely forced into contemplation about your own life.

Strolling through exhibits, I realized we might sometimes forget that a relationship is not just between lovers, but also between all the other people you have/encounter in your life. Especially your family, which can still end up in disaster, despite the given unconditional love..

All in all, giving an item to the museum is the way to let go. I think one can finally breathe when getting rid of the ‘burden’. It is a way of honouring that relationship and a broken heart as well. I have been fascinated by how much courage some contributors needed to have to share their most personal stories (and objects) with the world. Or even the courage of parting ways with them..

The building that houses the museum is a repurposed baroque architecture, which really gives it its own character. The cracked walls and pigeons nesting outside open windows create the feeling of life. And that is exactly what you need with the topic of the exhibition. I can honestly say that the show would work very much differently in a white cube gallery space. Like the people who lived, loved and experienced life, so did the rooms and the walls on which their histories are told.

Another great characteristic of the exhibition is a very welcoming sound back drop, which is accompanying you all throughout. I am excited to visit the museum again, as the exhibition is about to undergo a big change in exhibited material (the curators try to change the items and stories every three years). And it will be interesting to explore how other variety of people cope with their loss in different ways (which is also going to be the topic of my upcoming exhibition).





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