What Boiseans Gave To The Museum Of Broken Relationships

Feb 4, 2016

Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic came up with the idea that became the Museum of Broken Relationships (MoBR) while they were breaking up more than a decade ago. Because of it they now spend more time together than they did when they were a couple. It started as an exhibit at an art show in their native Croatia. They solicited mementos of failed relationships and asked people to write descriptions of the object and the relationship. The two say it was hugely popular from the very beginning.

It became a permanent museum which received international acclaim. Now Vistica and Grubisic do shows around the world including six previous ones in the U.S. Most of their exhibits are in major cities, but the founders also like to accept invitations to unexpected places.

A kitchen knife from Boise shares a platform with a pair of jeans from Taiwan and a self-help book from England.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Screenwriter and Boise resident Samantha Silva saw exhibits in London and San Francisco. She reached out to Vistica and Grubisic and told them she was very moved by the shows. Silva asked them to come to Boise and Jason Morales offered his gallery, MING Studios.   

The MoBR show will  be at MING for about a month. The exhibit is half objects from around the world brought from the museum’s collection and half objects donated by people in the Boise area. Thirty-two objects donated by Boiseans will be on display at MING studios the next two weeks. Different local submissions will then take their place for the exhibit's final two weeks. Each memento of doomed love comes with an anonymous story of the relationship written by the person who submitted it. Those can range from a few words to a couple of paragraphs.  

Perhaps the most enigmatic object and shortest description of the Idaho objects.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Vistica and Grubisic say people have a lot of different motivations for donating items to the museum.

“If you can recall the last time you broke up, there is this period when it really hurts to look at some of the objects that are so full of memory,” Grubisic says. “And they mean a lot, just to you. Nobody else can see them with your eyes. And being able to, in a way, get rid of this. But not get rid in a negative meaning like burn it or throw it away, which is often the case if you read newspapers or magazines the advice that you get. For us it’s simply rude. Being able to put this somewhere else, where it will become part of something bigger, where it will change the context, it will help you. This process of sitting down and writing it on a piece of paper, it is a sort of a ritual.”

“You can feel it in the stories, you feel if they are still angry, if they are donating [in a] vengeful mood,” Vistica says. “Other people . . . are at ease and they really want to share the story. It’s more, after so many years [the] museum has been around, that people want to share things and feel as part of community in the story of love and loss. It’s like going [to] a concert and you listen to a song and then people join in and sing.”

Boise resident Tina Barnett donated a seven-foot-long wedding veil she wore twice.

“I got married when I was 20, kind of a good southern girl,” Barnett says. “I wore that very seriously. At least in my 20-year-old mind it was serious.”

After her interview Tina Barnett said, "I'm going to be anonymous right?" Objects and stories in the show don't have names attached. I said, "nope." She said, "well, my ex-husband is out of town so I guess that's OK."
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Barnett carefully packed the veil away. She kept it even after her divorce three years later.  She did not wear it the second time she got married when she was 30. But she continued to keep it what she calls, "hermetically sealed" through several moves around the country until she and her second husband settled in Boise. She wore the veil the second time when she renewed her vows after 20 years. That was a very different ceremony from her first church wedding, it was performed by an Elvis impersonator for one thing. And she was a different person who didn't take life so seriously. But that marriage also ended in divorce. Barnett says it made sense to her to donate her veil to this show. But she’s not sure why.

“Maybe as a cautionary tale, maybe as bringing humor to a tragic situation,” she says. “You know, the dissolving of a 22-year marriage is a sad thing, but this seemed like a way to think about it playfully and seriously at the same time.”

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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