Museum of Broken Relationships

Olinka Vištica

Museum of Broken Relationships

Ćirilometodska 2 10 000 Zagreb

Zagreb, Croatia
European Museum Forum / Kenneth Hudson Award 2011

Love''s final Theatre

"Every passion, ultimately, has its spectator... (there is) no amorous   oblation without a final theater."
Roland Barthes, "A Lover's Discourse"

The Museum of Broken Relationships started in 2006 as a joint-author art project of a former couple: Olinka Viscaron;tica, producer in the domain of cultural projects with considerable international experience and Dražen Grubiscaron;ić, a versatile artist with a BFA in painting.

The premise on which the project was built is very simple, based on the universally understandable feelings of love and loss.  The museum's collection is composed of evocative objects of no apparent value, in the material and artistic sense of the word, which are displayed anonymously using the subjective personal stories of their donators as the only text. A moving assortment of cathartic objects of lost love became the building blocks of a social museum with a now permanent address, capable not only of safeguarding but also of communicating the collective and personal emotional heritage.

The initial display had instantly raised international attention and its creators were soon invited to curate the similar sort of display in more then 20 cities/communities worldwide: Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Berlin, Cape Town, San Francisco, Manila, Singapore, London to cite just a few stops of its ever growing itinerary that enabled the museum to enrich its collection not only in terms of the increasing number of exhibits but also in terms of social, cultural and historical content inherent to its symbolic objects and stories. From the first donations in Zagreb it was obvious that the personal narratives do not exist in a vacuum, out of space and time. Their multiple references often outgrew pure intimate experience of the two protagonists. Each exhibiton revealed something new and valuable about the stringent influence of the cultural and historical context on these often elliptic personal accounts, concluded with joking irony or bitter disappointment, sorrow, regret or unquenched longing.

Mixed feelings, doubts, ups and downs we all go through after a break-up or relationship ending proved to be so clearly understandable to every human being whatever his personal, cultural, social, political or economic background. The museum's capacity to cross borders and inspire cross-cultural compassion and understanding was explicitly praised by the EMYA jury who rated the importance of public quality and innovation as fundamental elements of this museum when awarding it the Kenneth Hudson Award in 2011 : "The Museum of Broken Relationships encourages discussion and reflection not only on the fragility of human relationships but also on the political, social and cultural circumstances surrounding the stories being told. The museum respects the audience''s capacity for understanding wider historical, social issues inherent to different cultures and identities and provides a catharsis for donors on a more personal level".

Whatever the motivation for donating personal belongings - be it sheer exhibitionism, therapeutic relief, or simple curiosity - people embraced the idea of exhibiting their love legacy as a sort of a ritual, a solemn ceremony, a creative and poetic way to mark the end of a relationship.  Our societies oblige us with our marriages, funerals, and even graduation farewells, but deny us any formal recognition of the demise of a relationship, despite its strong emotional effect. 

Contrary to its suggestive title the museum is full of resilience, hope and inspiration and has introduced in a big way the discourse of love into the museum field, challenging common perceptions of the role of the museum in society. The audience has assumed the multiple roles of museum''s creators, visitors, curators  and created a unique collaborative-participatory project of hybrid authorship and blurred borders, somewhere between the simple documentation of every day life and its artistic sublimation, confessional prose and profane catharsis, prying voyerism and cultural anthropology.


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