Where does love go when it comes to an end? Nobody knows. Neither science, which explains everything, nor any of us. But there is a museum that houses remains, or memories, of what were once relationships that had (almost) everything to be eternal. It's called Museum of Broken Relationships and here, all broken hearts are entitled to tell their story.
The account that opens this portfolio belongs to the description of the “piece” that someone - a boy, presumably - from Denver, in the United States, decided to send to the Museum of Broken Relationships. The “piece” in question is a VHS cassette, or what remains of it, symbol of his father's history of unloving, which lasted between the mid-90’s and his death in 2009. This item is part of the estate, constantly updating, of a space that is both intimate and revolutionary. But where does the idea, somehow crazy, of turning a loving separation into an act of universal catharsis, comes from? The Eureka moment came when Olinka Vistica, an event producer, and Drazen Grubisic, an artist, decided to end the relationship that they had maintained for four years amicably. Not quite sure which way to go to some objects of emotional value they shared, like a rabbit they planned to photograph on all their travels - which turned out to be the first piece of the museum, which is based in Zagreb, Croatia, and opened the doors in 2010 - they decided to set up, in 2006, a small exhibition with souvenirs from when life, for them, was a bed of roses. It was a success. What was supposed to be just a creative project has become "an empathetic journey around the world." And the rest is history in the making, because the Museum of Broken Relationships has grown to such an extent that it already has a second pole, in Los Angeles and, unless humanity's direction as regards love turns around, it will not stay around here. Because there is no one - it should be stressed, no one - who has never been through a heartbreak, and this is what the museum feeds on, memories, things that represent a time that no longer exists. Nobody knows what to do with love that breaks, that runs out, that corrodes over time. Nobody knows how to deal with an "I don't love you anymore." No one knows where to put these feelings at all. Only time can deal with them, soften them, make sense of them. Or else we have to exorcise them. A Turkish woman donated a bottle of champagne that, she thought, would be opened on the first anniversary of the relationship she was in, and she thought her boyfriend to ask her to marry him. Instead, he left. The bottle remains intact. The Museum of Broken Relationships lives off of this: of weddings that never went up to the altar, of loves that were not forever, of crushed passions that lost their breath at the first disagreement, of hopes that were built by two to destroy themselves ... The “donations” are anonymous, and their natural and intense character makes them directly part of the emotional heritage of humanity. To be considered valid, they only need to contain basic information such as provenance (geographical location), date/duration of the relationship, and a short description that justifies the sending of the piece in question. In the face of the abyss of discord, the vagaries of desire and the rivers of tears caused by separations, there is a little bit of everything here. Teddy bears, handcuffs, coffee machines, frames, hair scraps, flying saucers ... Flying saucers? Okay, they're not really flying saucers. This “stupid frisbee”, for example, whose ex-couple lived between Belgrade, Serbia, and Zagreb, Croatia, for two years and two months, has a peculiar history. “Description: a stupid frisbee, bought in a thrift store, was my ex-boyfriend’s brilliant idea – as a second anniversary gift. The moral was obviously that he should be smacked with it right across the face the next time he gets such a fantastic idea. Since the relationship is now preceded by the word “ex,” the Frisbee remains in the Museum as a nice memory and expelled negative energy. Feel free to borrow it if you like. PS Darling, should you ever get a ridiculous idea to walk into a cultural institution like a museum for the first time in your life, you will remember me. At least have a good laugh (the only thing you could do on your own).” And they were definitely not happily ever after.
Destroyed VHS tape of my father's wedding
mid 1990s – 2009
"My parents divorced after 26 years of marriage and, soon after, my father began seeing a woman from his office. She saw a meal ticket, hunted him, married him and then promptly quit her job, never to work again. He continued to work full time, retired, and then went back to work to pay for her endless spending. She began a pattern of sleeping all day and then spending her nights buying senseless items from the Home Shopping Network. She ruined him both financially and emotionally. When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given one month to live, her hoarding habits barred him from any hospice services in his own home. His insurance, however, didn’t cover hospice facilities, only the care. She then tried to put him in a home for the indigent, refusing to allow him to use his own retirement savings to pay for his own hospice care as this would ‘cut into the money I get when he dies.’ My mother, the jilted ex-wife, and his 91-year-old mother took it upon themselves to pay for his $1200-a-week care. The already strained relationship only got worse as time progressed. We were all advised by the hospice staff to avoid any contact with his wife. When my father passed away, not only did I refuse to go to his funeral to avoid this awful woman, but my only sister, his only two siblings, his ex-wife and his own mother also refused. I was shocked (and horrified) a few years later when I found this tape of his wedding. I called my sister and we agreed – the tape must die. What you see has been run over with my car, stabbed with a screwdriver, shot several times with a rifle, sawed in half, chopped with an axe, and the tape itself was torched. It was highly therapeutic."
2 Claddagh rings
03/01/2003 - 14/08/2017
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
"14.5 years, 4 countries and 3 rings. I lost the first ring down a drain and he replaced it. I broke the second one trying to bend it back into shape and he replaced it. I looked after the third one exceptionally well, realizing how important this must be to him. He left me."
A mobile phone
July 12, 2003 – April 14, 2004
"It was 300 days too long. He gave me his mobile phone so that I couldn't call him anymore."
Mad divorce-day dwarf
"Garden dwarf. On the day of our divorce he arrived in a new car. Arrogant and heartless. The dwarf was closing the gate that he had destroyed some time ago. At that moment, it flew to the windscreen of the new car, rebounded and landed on the asphalt. Its long trajectory drew an arc of time – and this short long arc defined the end of love."
Empty bag of fortune cookies attached to a Starbucks cup
October 27, 2013 – January 10, 2016
"You were my first love. And I wished you would also be my last. When we got those fortune cookies and I opened mine, it read ‘You have to learn to read between the lines’. I should have followed that advice because between those lines there was you cheating on me over and over. Isn't that ironic?"
An Exe Axe
"She was the first woman that I let move in with me. All my friends thought I needed to learn to let people in more. A few months after she moved in, I was offered to travel to the US. She could not come along. At the airport we said goodbye in tears, and she was assuring me she could not survive three weeks without me. I returned after three weeks, and she said: “I fell in love with someone else. I have known her for just 4 days, but I know that she can give me everything that you cannot.” I was banal and asked about her plans regarding our life together. The next day she still had no answer, so I kicked her out. She immediately went on holiday with her new girlfriend while her furniture stayed with me. Not knowing what to do with my anger, I finally bought this axe at Karstadt to blow off steam and to give her at least a small feeling of loss – which she obviously did not have after our break-up. In the 14 days of her holiday, every day I axed one piece of her furniture. I kept the remains there, as an expression of my inner condition. The more her room filled with chopped furniture acquiring the look of my soul, the better I felt. Two weeks after she left, she came back for the furniture. It was 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."
An exercise bike
"This exercise bike was originally a Christmas present for my wife. It has pre-set programs such as Cardio fit and Heart recovery (not working). When I found out that my dear wife likes to ride much more than just the exercise bike, I divorced her. She didn’t want to take the bike with her; I assume that her heart is in good condition. The bike has been outside the door for 18 months now awaiting its final location. And what could be a better place for it than this museum! Cold, calculating behaviour on the part of someone who is the most important person in the world to you can rob you of your dignity as a spouse, father and person, but only for a moment since life will win in the end. Towards a better tomorrow."
1 year (9/2009 – 9/2010)
Seattle, WA, USA
"We played basketball together. He was straight; I wasn’t. He used to tell me about the girls he was seeing, and it killed me inside."
A gingerbread cookie
"We met in the middle of Oktoberfest. I'm an American diplomat, he a bloke from Liverpool working in finance in London. We connected easily and ditched our friends to hang out alone for a while. As soon as we left the biergarten tent we started laughing like kids, going for rides, dancing, singing and we really connected. I did not want a long-distance relationship. But after much convincing I gave in and we exchanged details. A few days later I received this text: ""Stephanie, it is hard for me to say this to you as you are a great girl but could we leave the 'friends' thing please. It is true I am engaged with 2 kids and going through a bit of a tough time but I know in my heart I love her and want to make a go of it, having a good looking single 'friend' will only make that a whole lot harder to work out in my head I feel. Many thanks for a great time I will always remember it, please don't phone or text as I fear it would only cause trouble. Have a great life. P. ('Liverpool')'"
A holy water bottle shaped as the Virgin Mary
1988, 2 months
"In the summer of 1988 I met my transitory lover in Amsterdam. He was on a stopover during his travels. He was from Peru and discovering Europe by train. We met at the Buddha Disco. Not long after that we bumped into each other on the street, and 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."
Translated from the original article from Vogue Portugal's Love issue, published in December 2020.