Bizarre artifacts as the ultimate witnesses of broken relationships.
Today while in a hurry to an appointment, I passed by a poster that caught my eye in the heart of the red light district in downtown Amsterdam. The Museum of Broken Relationships, in collaboration with the Old Church in Amsterdam, is currently showing an exhibition dedicated to the remnants of romances that have come to an end. My curiosity was triggered, and later in the afternoon I decided to pay the oldest Church in Amsterdam a visit.
A very unusual subject, broken relationships, that leaves almost no single human being in the course of their lifetime untouched (although there are a lucky few). The idea for this innovative museum (with permanent location in Zagreb, Croatia) came out of a personal break-up between Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, artists and founders of this initiative. After their love relationship came to an end, they decided to create an art project to house their leftover personal items. Throughout the years the collection has expanded by artifacts donated from people all over the world who have broken up. Due to it’s great success the museum set up a travelling collection that has been on display worldwide.
Each exhibit includes personal objects accompanied by a brief story from the donor on how the romance fell apart, like a database of memories. The stories behind the items take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions, from painfully sarcastic, humorous, depressing, confronting, poetic and surprising.
But through the laughter and the tears there’s also a deeper layer that shows the fragility of the way we relate to each other and makes us understand the broader social & cultural context in which these stories take place.
What an original and beautiful initiative to gather an universal collection of emotions, while seeking connection with each other through the collective experience of heartbreak.
Here are some objects on display in Amsterdam. What object could you add to this collection?
A Cell Phone (2003-2004. Zagreb, Croatia)
It was 300 days too long. He gave me his cell phone so I couldn’t call him any more.
Plastic Mary holy water bottle (1988, 2 months. Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
In the summer of 1988 I met my transient lover in Amsterdam. He had a stopover during his travels. He was from Peru, discovering Europe by train. We met at the Buddha Disco. Not long after we bumped into each other on the street he went home with me and stayed for about two months. Suddenly he was gone. I found a goodbye note and this little statue, which he had specifically brought from Peru in the hope of meeting a new love. What he didn’t know was that I had once opened his bag, and found a whole plastic bag full of these bottles. I never saw him again.
A tear container (4 years. Berlin, Germany)
The content of this vessel are the tears I gathered. I shed them after the breakup of a 4-year-long relationship with a wonderful (but sneaky) woman. Actually, I intended to send her these tears as a sign of my deep pain. Until today I kept the container with me.
A jar with chickens preserved in alcohol. (2009-2013. Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
I was 19 when we got together. Of course we were in love and we had sex so often it hurt. But it went too fast, too hard. The relationship, I mean. He always hated the chicken jar while I found it a beautiful object. When I had moved to another apartment, he put the chicks on proud display above the fireplace in the living room. I didn’t get it, but I immediately went to pick them up and take them back. I never counted the chicks. They just sit there, perished in a mass, melted together. Suffocated too rapidly, no further movement.
Nasal spray. (2009. Istanbul, Turkey)
He bought this to stop his snoring.
I could not go to sleep because of his snoring.
Now I can’t go to sleep because of the pain of heartbreak.
Book Die Leiden des jungen Werthers. (1986. Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
My first real love involved the most popular boy in my class. I was almost too afraid to talk to him – let alone look him in the eye. In our German classes in secondary school we used to sit next to each other (nervously). He already had a girlfriend; the girl with the largest breasts in school. We both chose the book Die Leiden des jungen Werthers to read for school. The school library had only a few copies, however, so we decided to share. I read the book and Goethe convinced me to out my love to R. I scratched a secret message in the first chapter by underlining letters in red. Would he think of connecting the dots? The message was something like: “I am in love with you R. If you feel the same way, meet me at the small lake in the woods on January 13. I’ll be waiting.” At the lake I waited and waited until I heard a moped approaching. The feeling was mutual. During a bar fight a few months later R. was being beat up. I jumped in and joined the fight. While I was in bed for two months, recovering from my injuries, he took off with my best friend. I reread Die Leiden des jungen Werthers in tears. I then understood the concept of ‘romantic love’ and renounced it forever.
The exhibition in Amsterdam is open to visitors from November 16, 2013 until March 2, 2014.
A Relationship in 5 Minutes:
Photos: © Dani Loupe