Displayed as a work of art, a pair of underpants hung in a small museum in Zagreb, Croatia from 2003-2005. The caption read “A size too small”… but I didn’t mind at all.”
Whether the former lover of the anonymous artist originally wore the underpants isn’t important. The orange, whimsically patterned undergarment represented love, lost.
“The museum is a chance for everyone to do something about the feelings of loss and loneliness – to be creative in order to recover from that pain,” Communications Manager Marija Vladusic said of The Museum of Broken Relationships. Since 2006, the museum has exhibited personal pieces, often sentimental memorabilia, symbolizing the artists’ feelings about a broken relationship. “It offers an opportunity to get rid of the emotional burden and the universal context of similar experiences; helps convalescence and well-being; and seems to have a cathartic effect,” Vladusic said.
The museum was born out of personal experience, by Drazen Grubisic and Olinka Vistica, who had been together for several years and had broken up multiple times. In numerous attempts to salvage their relationship, the idea came to mind. “The question they asked themselves was what to do with all those tokens of love — material and immaterial — that one collected during one’s relationship,” said Vladusic. “Wouldn’t it be great if there was such a museum that could help you store it for some time?”
Although they were proud of their little art project, Vladusic said they were both quite unsuspecting of what would happen once Reuters published an article about the exhibition. Popularity grew, and soon people who wanted to host an exhibition in their own town sought them out. Now the museum has a permanent exhibit in London, and has travelled to 26 cities around the world.
Vladusic said the key to the museum’s success lies precisely in the fact that we are all familiar with certain feelings. She said she thinks the ending of a relationship is a pain universally understood. “Love, much like suffering, is as universal an experience as one could hope to find. It is a common language between people of different generations, races, nationalities, religious and political persuasions,” she said.
The museum can offer sympathy in its intimate, vulnerable exhibitions of sentiment. “There is comfort in knowing that we all go through the same rollercoaster of emotions when it comes to love, its highs and its lows,” Vladusic said. “It’s almost too easy at times to convince ourselves that we suffer more than others or experience things differently than anyone else.”
The Museum of Broken Relationships started with the simple idea to store painful triggers of memories of past relationships in a safe place for both tangible and intangible heritage.It transformed into much more than that.
Creating art can help the healing process, said Vladusic. “Art and, in this particular case, our museum collection, can offer healing, understanding and compassion that crosses cultures. ”
Vladusic said that the museum also has a profound effect on visitors. “We believe the audience embraces the idea of exhibiting their love legacies as a sort of a ritual, a solemn ceremony,” she said. Visitors of all ages, genders, races and ethnicities come to the museum. Vladusic said this speaks of the universality of the museum’s content that never fails to strike a chord, no matter what a person’s life experience has been.
“A person might come out more grateful for the love they have or have had, or might realize that there is more to be had,” Vladusic said. “In a way the museum offers an exchange of experiences and it is up to every single one of us to draw our own conclusions about the nature of human relationships in general.”
ABOUT THE WRITER
Sarah Zinn is currently a student at Indiana University studying Journalism. She’s a creative, passionate writer with a compulsion for wit. In her free time, she enjoys venturing outdoors, eating ethnic food, painting and on the rare occasion, sleeping. She is very interested in civil rights, the environment, public policy, and the arts. She has a curiosity for most things, excluding only finite math and stressfully dramatic shows such as CSI and 90210. She is a diehard fan of Seinfeld and most girl bands of the indie rock persuasion. The daughter of an expat, Sarah has called the state of Indiana, Athens GR, and London England home within the 19 years of her life. Sarah writes for her university’s newspaper the Indiana Daily Student, and has been published in Indianapolis Monthly Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @sarah_zinn.
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