As an artist I love to see creative ideas come out of everyday life experience so when I saw a beautiful and unconventional approach to lost love being turned into art I was infatuated! I’ll give you a little background to this inspiring discovery and then read on for my tips for creating art out of memories. Please excuse the quality of images – they weren’t intended for a blog post when I took them originally!
Discovering The Museum of Broken Relationships
Before we launched Curious Egg we took an epic three and a half month trip to the farthest corners of Europe to hunt down the most unique, intriguing and down right weird things this part of the world had to offer. Now we’re not spring chickens anymore so it was none of that inter-railing, wearing-a-backpack-bigger-than-your-body ( well ok my body) kind of trip but we’re pretty proud of the fact that we did live in a camper van for three and a half months without cheating and running to the nearest hotel for some fluffy folded towels and free toiletries! We also took Miko, our high maintenance vizsla who contrary to our worries, turned out to be a hit with the locals ( human and dog alike) in each city we visited and a natural sun worshipper – he even had his own passport photo complete with super serious mugshot much to the amusement of the border police!
Our travels took us all the way to the jaw dropping high Tatra mountains in Slovakia and then round through Zagreb in Croatia. It was here in one of my favourite cities we visited on the entire trip that we discovered the Museum of Broken Relationships. Just let that name sink in and tell me it could ever have come about in the UK. Tucked up on the hill in the upper town in the amazing Kulmar Palace it’s now becoming the worst kept secret in Zagreb as a contemporary cultural must see.
It’s a strange but intriguing concept which grew from a small travelling exhibition based around failed relationships of all kinds and the ‘ruins’ left behind. With Valentine’s day just behind us, I thought it was perfect timing to flip the conventional idea of romance on its head and use this as an inspiring idea for interiors.
Inspiring Object Displays
As we walked around this gorgeous space of contrasts – a vaulted underground room with bare brick walls interrupted by slick white plinths and partition walls – it was quiet but not empty. There were couples, people on their own and families all thinking their own thoughts as they read one by one, the very personal accounts that had been sent in by random members of the public around the world.
Each real life story of lost love was accompanied by an object that actually existed in that memory – a glove, a garden gnome, a shoe, a wrapper and so it went on. But the stories weren’t all about lost love between couples and failed teenage romance, some were moving accounts of the lost years of silence between a father and daughter who couldn’t forgive one another or a mother who never got to meet the child she gave away or a friendship that didn’t survive the success of one when it overshadowed the other. Everyone loves a story. This felt like a mixture of slightly uncomfortable voyeurism and having a heartfelt open and honest conversation over a cuppa about life and how the choices we make can change how it turns out for each of us.
What elevated it from a pile of stuff on a table and random handwritten bits of paper, is how it was displayed. This for me made it art. If you believe that art reflects the world back to us in new ways so that we see it differently then that’s exactly what this did. Each object was laid simply onto a translucent fibreglass ’tile’ on a plinth. The tiles had been heat treated to slump into the cavity at the top of the plinth and a light had been placed inside so that when you looked down on the object it was lit from underneath like a museum artefact. The slumped fibrous material of the tile gave it a more organic feel , almost like the surface of the sea that made it much more intimate and personal than a flat glass shelf in a museum. It could almost be seen as the inside of the human heart with all it’s emotional scars – that might seem a little overly sentimental but go to this museum and I defy you not to shed a tear!
Making Your Memories Into Art
So out of this I managed to get super inspired about how creative display like this could be used in the home. We all collect things along the way that mean something and that we don’t want to throw away. Do we keep them in boxes forgotten or only brought out every so often? – maybe but sometimes the things that were painful can make you smile now that you’re older and know what you know, they’re our map pins to the past so that we don’t forget and learn from those experiences. My grandmother used to say that every wrinkle on a face was a lesson learned in life to be cherished and kept on display.
You’ll all be familiar with the art of Tracey Emin and Damien Hurst both big name UK artists in the nineties who in very different ways displayed either their own memories and artefacts or everyday objects in a museum-like sensationalist kind of way that made them superstars of modern culture.
If you don’t know their work, definitely go take a look and suddenly you’ll see some of the roots of the current mass craze for neon art slogans we’re seeing at the moment as well as a contemporary take on everyday curios. It’s about thinking differently about displaying the things we keep, taking them out of drawers and boxes and putting them out there. The secret is to edit it down to just a few key things and really display them creatively in order to avoid the jumble sale look.
The idea of plinths in the home is exciting, a free standing box that also acts as an uplighter. just leave the top open and pop a light source inside ( battery powered might be easiest – Ikea do lots of options). Get some perspex, stiffened sheer fabric or glass cut to size (create a translucent ‘frosted’ surface by spraying the underside with a thin mist of paint or glass frosting spray) when lit, it’ll create a glow and then you just need to decide what’s socially acceptable in your household to display without causing a whole other emotional drama!
It’s fascinating how just taking an object out of context and putting it on display either carefully positioned within a glass cabinet or on an open plinth with a little snippet of text from that memory will provide a point of intrigue for guests. It makes an interesting change from the usual gallery wall of family photos – a story that you can pick up, hold and be transported back to that time for a few moments – temporarily thank goodness!
Have you tried out any interesting and unconventional ways of displaying special objects that add personality and change the feel of a room? If so I’d love to hear about it!
N.B Despite Roddy and Miko’s woeful expressions in these photos the Curious Egg family is very much in one piece!