Some people say that the only things liable to affect every human being in their lifetime, be they rich, poor, geniuses or simpletons are death and taxes. I would like to point out a glaring omission to whoever is in charge of that cursory list: the breakup. Indeed, we all have or all will eventually be reduced to a sobbing mass of self-pity or self-righteous outrage by the end of a love affair. After the denial, the anger, the bargaining and the depression fade into acceptance, we will all have understood that, no matter how convinced we were that we would never recover from a broken heart, we do move on, get on with our lives and find love again.
It’s often when we’ve reached that realization that the mementoes and remnants of broken relationships are packed away or dispatched in healing and potentially ritualistic ways. The Museum of Broken Relationships is a repository of such highly personal artifacts. A traveling exhibition hailing from Croatia, the Museum has toured Europe, North America, Africa and Asia, accumulating the spoils of heartbreak since 2006. It is now hosted by the Tristan Bates Theater in Covent Garden, which also commissioned new artworks to add to the artifacts.
Although the objects themselves are often anodyne, the personal stories that accompany them add history and pathos, turning this exhibition into an affecting collection of narratives likely to make you smile and feel a bit wistful. It’s often the most concise stories that have the most effect. The router accompanied by “We tried. Not compatible.” is unforgettable, if a bit facile. Then there are the pearls of wisdom such as the ceramic plate from Mexico stating “Mejor Sola Que Mal Acompanada” (Better alone than badly accompanied). You can imagine her story… There are also the touchingly predictable mix tape and bottle of tears and the more baffling “Stupid Frisbee” and brain scan. Each story is highly personal – only two people know what really happened – , yet terribly familiar – we’ve all been there or know someone who has.
Adding to the objects and their corresponding stories, the Tristan Bates created a unique atmosphere via careful lighting and curating that is indeed very theatrical. Alice Bleary’s paper cutout artworks are at once delicate and imposing. They divide and populate the space while adding to the whimsical nature of the project without being too literal or obstructive. There is also a series of events such as poetry readings, film screening and music which is not to be missed.
If there is someone in your life that you would like to get to know better, a visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships is guaranteed to make for an enlightening date. You will laugh, you will cry, you will finally have an idea how that boyfriend you left with a text when you were 15 really felt. You might even find that a print out of your text is now part of the exhibition…