What about a place, a museum actually, where you can leave the memento that most captures your feelings about a failed relationship on public display? The Museum of Broken Relationships, in Zagreb, Croatia, named “Most Innovative Museum” at the European Museum Awards in 2011 is, believe it or not, just such a venue.
Pieces from its collection are currently part of a traveling exhibition on view at the Southbank Centre’s “Festival of Love” in London through the end of August. The museum itself was founded by a couple, Olinka Vištica and Drazen Grubišić, after their own breakup in 2006. (The two obviously remained friends.) The idea was to preserve personal stories about love’s end, symbolized by items of special significance and the roles they played in the arc of those rocky romantic journeys. More are added as the exhibit tours the world, as all can feel free to make their own (anonymous) contributions.
Those bequests can encompass both the weird (the “Divorce Day Mad Dwarf,” shown left, a scruffy gnome thrown at the windshield of an errant husband’s car) and the predictable (a teddy bear with an “I Love You” heart). And the poignant: a bottle filled with tears shed after a break-up. All are remnants of that most exalted of emotions gone sour.
One of the oddest is the “Ex Axe” (below), which a spurned lover used to systematically destroy an ex’s furniture after her departure. “The more her room filled with chopped furniture, acquiring the look of my soul, the better I felt,” reads the accompanying note. And when she came back for her effects, they were “neatly arranged into small heaps and fragments of wood. She took that trash and left my apartment for good. The axe was promoted to a therapy instrument.”
Therapeutic relief is among the main motivations for these emotional cast-offs (as is, sometimes, revenge), and all are shaped by varying degrees of irony, humor, and of course, a bit of rage.
“I believe people embraced the idea of exhibiting their legacies as a sort of a ritual, a solemn ceremony,” wrote Vištica in the book (or “Love Pictionary”) that documents the museum.
As the song goes, don’t go breakin’ my heart.