Q&A: Co-founder Drazen Grubisic on the Museum of Broken Relationships
Dražen Grubišić and Olinka Vištica collect trinkets of lost love.
Artist Dražen Grubišić and film producer Olinka Vištica were in a relationship for four years, and then they broke up. But their relationship didn't end there -- instead, they entered into a unique partnership by founding the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia: a heart-wrenching, funny and very personal collection of the silly little gifts people give each other when they are in love and then can't throw away after the affair is over.
Since opening the doors of the museum, they've traveled the world mounting satellite shows with objects gathered from community members; when the shows are over, the new objects are sent back to the brick-and-mortar museum in Zagreb.
Those travels now bring them to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, where the Museum of Broken Relationships exhibit opens tomorrow, Valentine's Day, for a run through the end of May.
To prime your curiosity, we asked Grubišić a few questions about the MoBR and why such an institution is useful:
Westword: What was the object from your own broken relationship that started the whole thing?
Dražen Grubišić: It was a little wind-up bunny. It is still on display in Zagreb.
What made you want to create this repository for cast-off keepsakes?
We had a discussion, actually while we were breaking up, about what to do with all the objects left behind. With some things, it's easy: If you have a TV, of course you're going to use that, but what about all those items that are tokens of love and affection and at the moment, yet have no real function. What do you do with them?
Most self-help articles -- mainly those in women's magazines -- tell you to throw it away, to burn it, to move on and so on. But that seemed sacrilegious to us. You spend part of your life with someone, and that's not something to be forever forgotten. It's a part of your life.
We were trying to think of a way to preserve this emotional heritage, so we thought, "Wouldn't it be great if there was a museum where you could keep those things, and they could tell your story in a way that will help you?" The primary idea was not "let's make a museum." It was more like, "Let's create a safe space for keeping the emotions associated with these objects."
Is it difficult to continue a working relationship with someone you broke up with?
We are living proof that it can be done. You can transform a love relationship into a friendly relationship. It wasn't easy at beginning, and it takes a lot of understanding and tolerance, but it can be done.
How do people react when they walk through the museum?
That's the part I love the most. Some people have read about the museum, and they already know what to expect from the permanent display in Zagreb. But then there are the tourists who walk by, and they read the sign and start laughing and walk in thinking it's a funny thing. But then they walk out, and they have to sit and have coffee and talk about their experience. It makes you think.
Where do your donations come from?
We're quite small and private, and we're not encouraging people to bring things to us. We decided this is the best way to collect, and we travel quite bit. We just closed in Paris, and now we're here. In July, we go to Taipei, and then Amsterdam and Brazil.
Also, the nice part is to see how similar it all is wherever we go. It doesn't matter about religion, race, culture economic situation: It all comes down to people and feelings and those are mainly the same. Sure, there are stories between the lines, but overall, they are very much the same.
What would you say to encourage people to see the exhibit?
I think they should see it. If you are in a happy relationship, you'll feel even better about it. If you're in a broken one, you'll see that you're really not alone, that it's something everybody went through.
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