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Everyday objects emit heartache at broken-relationships museum

The new Los Angeles branch of the Museum of Broken Relationships is home to artifacts from failed relationships, which are not just romantic.

sex and relationships Updated: Dec 31, 2016 09:03 IST
AP
Amber Clisura poses for a picture next to the meat smoker she donated to the new Museum of Broken Relationships in Los Angeles.
Amber Clisura poses for a picture next to the meat smoker she donated to the new Museum of Broken Relationships in Los Angeles.(AP)

It is probably just the sort of closure that would have worked for Miss Havisham, the wealthy, heartbroken spinster from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. The clocks in her mansion, stopped at the exact moment of her disgrace, would have found a welcome home at the new Los Angeles branch of the Museum of Broken Relationships.

The original museum opened in Zagreb, Croatia, in 2010 after growing out of a touring collection that crisscrossed Europe, Asia and the US.

On display in Zagreb are artifacts from failed unions, most of them mundane under ordinary circumstances. A single stiletto heel. A wine opener. A worn old Snoopy doll. But when isolated in a glass case or hanging on a white wall and accompanied by a caption, the objects become imbued with heartache or regret. Or freedom.

In Los Angeles, there’s a blue chiffon top a woman wore to a cafe where her husband told her he was leaving her. As is an envelope of leaves mailed from Canada to San Diego so a long-distance paramour could experience changing seasons in southern California.

A jar of pickles purchased for a first love who, the donor explained, “stopped texting before I could give it to him.”

A jar of pickles purchased for a first love on display at the Museum. (AP)

After her husband asked for a divorce, Amber Clisura gave back her engagement ring, kicked him out of the house and tossed everything that reminded her of the ruined marriage. Except for one item: a polished steel barbecue smoker that her ex-husband had fashioned for her from an old oil drum.

“It sat there on the patio and rusted and rusted, and it became a sad symbol of the relationship,” Clisura said.

The four-legged smoker had been a treasured handmade gift, but eventually Clisura couldn’t bear to look at it. She considered giving it to a neighbour or selling it for scrap but then read about a call for submissions at the new Los Angeles branch of the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Amber Clisura poses next to the meat smoker she donated to the Museum. (AP)

After some deliberation, Clisura, a textile artist and fashion designer from LA, decided to donate the smoker and drove it to the museum’s warehouse.

“A woman met me downstairs, and as I was handing it over, I burst into tears,” Clisura said, laughing now. “It felt like a weight was lifted.” The museum representative offered to give her a hug.

Employees have embraced their share of broken-hearted donors eager for closure, said director Alexis Hyde at the museum’s location on Hollywood Boulevard, a thoroughfare that, she noted, has been called the “boulevard of broken dreams.” Hyde has been known to brush away her own tears as she opens boxes containing donations.

“It’s cathartic the way a good, sad movie is cathartic,” she said. “On some level, you know this person’s moving on, and they’ve survived.”

An envelope of leaves mailed from Canada to San Diego so a long-distance paramour could experience changing seasons in southern California is also on display. (AP)

Hyde pointed out not all the fizzled unions represented in the 3,500-square-foot museum were romantic. One donor had an irreparable relationship with her father. Another split from a church. A California woman who donated a Texas license plate said she separated from the Lone Star State.

“My broken relationship was with myself,” said Andree Vermeulen, whose donated items are the museum’s most talked about. The actor sent in a pair of breast implants she had removed after ending a toxic relationship with a man who made disparaging comments about her body.

Vermeulen, who lives in Los Angeles, said the implants “never felt right,” and since they’ve been out, she has “reached a place where I feel very grounded and confident.” An outpouring of support on social media gave her further confidence to use the experience as fodder during storytelling performances in which she discusses body image and standards of beauty.

Vermeulen said the donation, now displayed in a glass case in the LA museum’s main room, symbolized the final chapter of the relationship, and her scars “mark a story and a time in my life that taught me a lot about myself.”

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