A drawer filled with old mixtapes. A stack of immaculate Brazilian Playboy magazines, neatly fanned out. A bouquet of paper flowers.
These were among the artifacts on display at a preview of L.A.'s forthcoming Museum of Broken Relationships, a worldwide project that collects and displays the detritus of people's failed romantic exploits. In 2006, Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišic conceived of the museum as a traveling exhibit; in 2010, a permanent location was established in Zagreb, Croatia, but the collection continued to grow as the museum hosted exhibitions around the world — from Cape Town, South Africa, to Boise, Idaho — and called for submissions in each city along the way. In late May, MoBR will establish a second permanent location right here in L.A. (at 6751 Hollywood Blvd., right around the corner from Hollywood & Highland).
In the meantime, organizers are hosting a series of local pop-up exhibits, such as the one on Tuesday night at Tenants of the Trees in Silver Lake.
A handful of items were arranged on platforms on the stage next to the DJ booth; each artifact is accompanied by a typed card identifying it and its city and country of origin, plus an explanation of its emotional significance written by the wounded person who donated it. Some were bizarre, like the rubber apron with enormous, bulbous breasts affixed to the front, which a woman says her boyfriend used to make her wear during sex. Some were tragic, like the red blinking light meant for a dog's collar that was sent to a man by his ex following their difficult breakup, so he wouldn't get lost in the dark (metaphorically). His ex, he went on to explain, eventually committed suicide, alone in a hotel room. He requested that the light be turned on when it's exhibited because the blinking reminds him of a pulsing heart.
The aforementioned bouquet of paper flowers was the only artifact that originated in L.A. (The story, in short: Boy meets girl, girl disappears for weeks at a time, boy attempts to surprise girl with a bouquet of paper flowers at her job at a local museum only to discover no one there has ever heard of her. She hung up when he called to confront her and he never heard from her again.)
Some are things that were too hard for people to keep; others are things about which you can imagine the owner saying, "Why the hell do I still have this?"
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According to an MoBR representative, the inaugural exhibit at the L.A. museum will have around 100 objects, 70 percent from the permanent collection in Croatia and the rest local submissions. An online donation form encourages Angelenos to anonymously unburden themselves: "Some relationships end — with lovers, with loved ones, with dreams and with cities. If you’ve wished to unburden the emotional load by erasing everything that reminds you of that painful experience by throwing it all away — don’t. Give it to us."
Organizers plan to host more previews as the opening date approaches (roughly two a month); follow them on Twitter and Instragram for details as they come out: @brokenshipsla.