“Photographic realism avoids nostalgia, romanticism, or sentimentality in favour of clear-eyed and critical (social) observation.“
“There is hardly a grander spectacle of private emotions and public display than the wedding. Predicated on the unspoken connection of love and devotion between two people, “to have and to hold,” marriage is one of the oldest institutions upon which civilization and government.”
The Museum of Broken Relationships grew from a traveling exhibition revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their ruins. Unlike ‘destructive’ self-help instructions for recovery from failed loves, the Museum offers a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the Museum’s collection.
Whatever the motivation for donating personal belongings – be it sheer exhibitionism, therapeutic relief, or simple curiosity – people embraced the idea of exhibiting their love legacy as a sort of a ritual, a solemn ceremony. Our societies oblige us with our marriages, funerals, and even graduation farewells, but deny us any formal recognition of the demise of a relationship, despite its strong emotional effect. In the words of Roland Barthes in A Lover’s Discourse: “Every passion, ultimately, has its spectator… (there is) no amorous oblation without a final theater.”
The more I research creative ways to present marriage and divorce the more I see how much hurt and negativity is out there. Having grown up with two very happily married parents and a set of grandparents soon to celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary, I have been fortunate enough to witness first hand the beauty of marriage and the positivity it radiates. However the reality of the situation is that not all of us are as lucky in love. One willing participant of the project wrote in his reflection on his own divorce (I have changed any names)…
I suppose it speaks volumes to say that I have no wedding photo’s in this house. I thought I knew where one might be that I removed from a frame but no, its with all the other photo’s and albums down at my mothers and I won’t be down there for a few weeks.
I might have kept them with me but downsizing is one of the inevitable financial consequences of a divorce which leaves one with too little space for everything, so I have bit’s here at [new home], in Mum’s attic and garage, some at my cottage in [South England] and some even left at [old home from marriage], my history dispersed to the four winds. But despite the changed circumstances I could not be more relieved to be divorced, I found it difficult to be in the same room as her in the end as my skin crawled from her anger, disorganisation, lack of action, jealousy, verbal bullying, greed, false front, ungratefulness and disloyalty. Having married in 1997 I wrote a diary in 2000 and read back now how miserable I was even then, but the kids were born by that time and we were not finally divorced until twelve years later.
I thought I loved her and certainly chased after her at the outset, she ticked all the right boxes in my head, but she rebuffed me frequently. After a year of being dumped innumerable times I needed closure, so I asked her to marry me. She turned me down and expecting this I gave her a vintage Rolex watch to ‘remember the good times we had together’ (it turned out to be a fake which I thought rather ironic years after !). But most importantly at that time, at that moment, I felt hurt, lonely and closed my heart to her.
It was after that I couldn’t find space from her. I had organised fun and cheer for her and Matthew [step-son] for a while, maybe she noticed I was a ready offer of a better life and Matthew was very keen we got together too. So now she wanted me and finally a few months down the line whilst walking through Bath she said ‘I suppose so’ I said ‘You suppose so what’ to which she replied ‘I suppose I will marry you’. I ignored my gut instinct, my closed heart, the shouting at Matthew, the piles of ironing and incomplete disorganised paperwork, the dirty house, the lack of confidence and direction. I thought I could change it all, make it all right, and fall back in love, but you can’t go back.
She was not a bad woman, neither was I a bad man, we just brought out the worst in each other. But with true English flare we hid it all as best we could for the sake of the kids, who have grown up seemingly quite happy, together and wonderful, maybe because the turmoil was well hidden, maybe because I calmed the waters as best I could, who knows. Of course they could still follow our appalling example and create their own unhappy circumstances, but I will hope to be there to ensure that this mould is well and truly broken.
I was a fool and maybe should have followed my best mans advice who said we could just drive on past the wedding – Tony knew it wasn’t right. But I cannot truly regret it for a moment; for without her and all that pain I would not have my three beautiful children who I love to death.
Now I’m with a girl I first had a crush on when I was 17 and she is in love with me. But I’m not listening to my head this time as in my gut it says it’s just fine and this time I am following my instinct and open heart ! Circumstances will be reduced but we will struggle through together, just be happy with each other, I hope until we are old, grey and toothless. Life is good and I don’t regret a moment of it !
Gosh you had me on a roll here and actually it feels good to write out my feelings – thanks.