Art ache

Updated: Jun 30

A spike in lockdown-related relationship breakdowns has been reported in China. So Jess Scott took another look at the Museum of Broken Relationships.



Following last year’s global call for contributions 1881 relics of relationships past can now be seen on the Museum of Broken Relationships website: brokenships.com. A globally crowd-sourced project, submissions are pinned onto an interactive map, where viewers can read tales of heartbreak, as told by hundreds of anonymous strangers.


The museum features two permanent outposts, in Zagreb and Los Angeles, and a travelling collection, which recently found itself at Otago Museum.


Although the digital catalogue does not yet include any entries from New Zealand, Otago Museum’s call for submissions (AZ#81) yielded 45 contributions from heartbroken Kiwis, quite literally putting us on the map.


After the call for submissions ended, Otago Museum hosted a selection of 25 objects submitted to them, and 65 objects from the Museum of Broken Relationships global archive.



Craig Scott, Otago Museum’s Head of Exhibitions and Creative Services, says the items ranged ‘from books and jewellery, to a set of keys, a glass banana, a 1kg block of Cadbury Caramilk Chocolate, a dress, a studded jacket – all kinds of things from mundane day-to-day objects to very specific and personal ones.’


The aforementioned glass banana was one of his personal favourites. The piece was donated in honour of a Dunedin dweller’s ‘spirit fruit guiding (them) to truth,’ after a rogue peel hidden in the compost gave away their banana-loathing husband’s affair.


His other favourites include a positive pregnancy test and a cheongsam gifted by a former lover, which the owner kept for more than 20 years but could never bear to wear.


‘It was interesting to see the importance, pain, or memories a particular object held. Ultimately, the objects are just an anchor to the whole experience – it is the story associated with each object that holds the true power and resonates with the individual.’


‘Even people who didn’t make a submission seemed to go down a path of nostalgia – it was pretty cool to see and hear the conversations it started,’ he said.



The Museum of Broken Relationship’s digital collection similarly spans from the prosaic to the obscure, including an espresso machine, the ‘Twenty-seven-year Old Crust from a Wound of My First Love’ (a scab from a motorcycle accident), a packet of gastritis tablets, a pair of pink fluffy handcuffs, and a rubber hamburger.


Keep an eye on the site for New Zealand’s contributions – if you’re lucky, you might even spot a submission from your very own scorned lover.



Images courtesy of Otago Museum

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