About 6 years ago, Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić were trying to figure out how to split their possessions once their relationship had come to an end. The big things were easy to divide but they got stuck when it came to the sentimental bric-a-brac that only had meaning in the context of their relationship. They joked that they should start a museum with that stuff and, a year later, they curated the first exhibition of The Museum of Broken Relationships which has toured the world (currently on display at London’s Tristan Bates Theatre to September 4) and includes an ever-changing array of objects donated by the public. We found out more from Vištica:
Why do you think The Museum of Broken Relationships has been so popular?
‘People like the idea that they can take part. For those who donate, it’s as much an exhibition for themselves as it is for others. All the stories tell us of a universal yet personal experience that everyone and anyone can relate to.’
Many people think of breaking up as a very dark, depressing time. Do you believe the exhibition illustrates this differently?
‘I wouldn’t say this is a depressing place; it’s a museum about love. Going through a break-up gives you a new perspective on life. It’s so powerful and affects you so. Sad objects are not necessarily bad things, and that’s the message the museum sends. It’s full of hope and has a sense that life goes on. I wouldn’t say this is a cemetery of love — quite the contrary, this is about building new relationships and emotions and honouring old ones.’
What have you learnt from the items you’ve collected from London so far?
‘What I like about these stories is that you can really feel that they took place here. Though they are often short, they are incredibly passionate – and you can see that London is a melting pot of cultures. We’re also in a theatre and the setting plays a big part of it. This is a dignified space and each object is given respect – no object is given pride of place, because no story is more important than another.’
Is it true that you have over 700 further objects that are not on display? Of all these items, does a particular story stand out for you?
‘I can’t pick a favourite, because there are lots of stories and objects that really mark me. Some I just have to hold and they give me goosebumps. I like the ones that let you invent your story.’
What’s next for The Museum of Broken Relationships?
‘There’s been a lot of interest from other cities and we’ll be changing the main collection in Croatia. That’s the joy of this exhibition. It’s not permanent; it changes all the time with the experiences of people from everywhere we’ve visited. I have the feeling that this project has a life of its own and that we’re just following it.’
Read the full interview with Olinka Vištica.