A Croatian museum dedicated to failed relationships is to have its permanent home in Zagreb after returning from a sell out world-wide tour.
The Museum of Broken Relationships, which was opened again more than a month ago in the city centre, displays exhibits donated by lovers who want to illustrate their bitter break ups.
Along with an anonymous short story detailing the emotional resonance of each donation, these artifacts of failed romances provide a much-needed alternative to the usual heartbreak-recovery methods.
Artists Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic came up with the idea of collecting mementos of everything from short flings to painful divorces after their own romance failed.
Vistica said her impulse on breaking up with Grubisic after two years was the same as many people – to destroy, to be negative, to cut the arms off his suit jackets.
“Instead we put all our objects together and then asked our friends to send us their mementos,” she explained. “The press got interested and people started donating items. Soon we had a trailer full of objects and the Museum of Broken Relationships was born.
“The exhibition comes from a sincere, universal experience and helped us in our break-up process. I think the exhibits have a therapeutic effect for anyone else going through such emotional turmoil.
“The normal impulse is to destroy the mementos of a relationship in order to recover, but we thought of using creativity to overcome the pain of the experience and also remember the joy those objects once held for us.
“The visitors fall into three categories, we find: people who are merely curious, people who are suffering themselves and seeking catharsis through a visit and a mixture of the two. It is the latter who usually end up donating things.
“I think I like the leg exhibit the best: here was a man who lost part of his body then part of his soul. It speaks to us all.”
The false limb in question was donated by a Zagreb man called Vladic in Zagreb. A veteran of Croatian war for independence in 1990s, his leg was blown off by a landmine. Now, lying alongside the false limb is a card which reads:
“Zagreb, 1992: In a Zagreb hospital I met a beautiful, young and ambitious social worker from the Ministry of Defence. She helped me get certain materials which I as a war invalid I needed for my false leg and our love was born.
“But the prosthetic limb endured longer than our love. It was made of better material!”
Each exhibit has a note from the contributor saying what it means to them. Under the axe the jilted lesbian wrote: “She was the first woman I let move in with me. All my friends thought I needed to learn to let people in more. After a few months …I was offered the opportunity to travel to the U.S. She could not come with me.
“We said goodbye tearfully at the airport with assurances from her that she could not survive three weeks without me. When I returned after three weeks she said: ‘I’ve fallen in love with someone else. I’ve known her for four days but I know that she gives me all that you cannot give me.’
“I kicked her out. She went immediately with her new girlfriend on holiday while her furniture stayed with me. Not knowing what to do with my anger, I bought this axe to blow off some steam and to give her at least a small feeling of loss. I started to axe one piece of furniture a day.
“The more her room filled up with chopped up furniture, the more I started to feel better. Two weeks after she was kicked out she came to take the furniture. It was neatly arranged into small heaps and fragments of wood.”
Another man said he met a girl on the Internet and he received a pair of boxer shorts which he donated to the museum with the words: “I got the boxer shorts as a gift for my birthday in January 2007. Unfortunately the ‘relationship’ did not last long enough for us to meet and for the boxer shorts to be taken off …”
A pen on display tells visitors it was once used to write “romantic crap he didn’t deserve” and under the coffee machine visitors are told: “Ljubljana, 2001-2006: I gave it to him because he wanted it so badly.”
“But he soon realised that it was not perfect, as he always spilt some coffee on the table while pouring it. And when I realised I was not perfect for him either, my non-perfect love that was spilt too much, faded.”
“His anger delivered all the things I had given him in front of my door, among them this coffee maker. Quite often I made myself some coffee in it as a memory of him. I made coffee for him when he dropped by for a visit. As I would like to break this endless circle I decided to donate it to the museum.”
There is a pair of fluffy pink handcuffs “bought for some bedroom fun but which came to symbolise the chains with which he bound my soul.”
There is also a pathetic wedding dress donated by a Japanese woman who could no longer bear the pain of looking at it because it symbolised the hope and the failure of her doomed relationship.