We’ve all had that moment, perhaps when we are moving or perhaps when we are looking in the spare closet for that extra warm coat, where we come across belongings from previous relationships. We’ve kept them for a variety of reasons; a reminder of someone that we still love, or a lesson on types of people we should never date again.
We don’t want to see the painful reminders every day of our life but when it comes time to throw them in the bin, we hesitate. We make the decision that to the back of the closet, out of sight and out of mind, they go.
Well, now there is a place for them, and that is the Museum of Broken Relationships. This is a room filled to the brim with physical manifestations of fallen apart marriages, cheating spouses, abandoned children and death.
In one section sits a handwritten note from one participant’s husband of 10 years, who – shortly after finding out that she could not conceive – left her on Christmas Eve to live with his secretary. Another spot is given to a box full of buttons which a woman had cut from the shirts of her unfaithful boyfriend.
Near to that is a box of cigarettes a woman’s sister died before finishing. Then there is an old phone charger forgotten and left, just as the donor said that she was. A Ryan Adams CD sits there, deserted, after the singer was accused of sexual harassment. Another type of relationship ended.
The exhibition was put together by Olinka Vistica and her former boyfriend Drazen Grubisic. They are two creatives that were inspired after their own relationship went south. The first museum was opened in Croatia and they’ve since collected thousands of items and been to more than 50 cities.
In the Melbourne version of the museum there are 54 objects. Although many of these are from local places such as Wagga Wagga and Melbourne, there are also items that have made the trip from previous incarnations in overseas cities.
I took my best friend with me, and as we toured the room, I was struck by the intimacy of the project. We were given the ability to peer into people’s lives, and discover moments that the owners of each item wanted to forget. But rather than feel the heartbreak that shadowed over each story, instead I felt little springs of hope.
I got to cheer on the woman who had cut off the buttons and another who, after finding her boyfriend’s car parked outside another woman’s house, “tore off his side-view mirror and bent the wipers”. I mourned with the person who had felt unable to give away her deceased mother’s clothes until this moment, as well as the one who purchased a packet of Werther’s Original but who’s intended recipient “died first”.
As I walked around and read the stories of relationships, some who had recently parted ways and others from as far back as the 1970s, I felt inspired. All of these people had so admirably reached into some of the most painful parts of their past and helped create art.
By the time I left, I wanted to thank the anonymous people who dredged up and offered their stories for mass consumption, hoping that they might give us all something. That in the sharing of their own heartbreak they could make all of us feel less alone.