Written by: Michelle Cheong and Sabha Sareer
Edited by: Gan Pei Zoe
Pictures are credited to their respective owners.
Previous write-up on Break Up Exhibition 1.0
Inspired by the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia; Malaysia’s very own Breakup Exhibition returned for its second edition, organised by students from the Department of Psychology in collaboration with Sunway Psychology Club. Breakup Exhibition 2.0 was held at the Level 1 Art Gallery, Sunway University, from Thursday, October 3rd to Saturday, October 5th.
The show was open to anonymous participants around the world who have been through a breakup, providing them an outlet for a cathartic release and a safe space to overcome the stigmas of mental health and talking about personal grief. They demonstrated that regardless of whether the relationship was romantic, platonic, or familial; no matter how short or long a relationship had persisted; no matter how simple or extravagant the item, they were once significant and therefore, highly valuable in their own personal way. Through observing these donated personal items, people were able to truly step into the shoes of another and experience things from their point of view.
According to the data students collected, people generally experience heartbreak at the age of twenty-two. This would explain the mean age of donors being 22.4 years old. It may have also contributed to the fact that out of the 60 items showcased throughout the gallery, the most popular items contributed were soft toys, followed with a tie of both clothing and bracelets.
The set up of the exhibition consisted of clothing items elegantly hung on hangers in the back, with smaller objects showcased on stands towards the front. All the items showcased were each accompanied by memoirs of unsuccessful relationships, taking guests on an empathetic journey which has transformed broken hearts into art.
Some of these items and the memoirs that accompanied them seemed to be more shocking than others. One memoir explained that the donated item, a framed letter addressed to a minister, was written by a 70-year-old mother in an attempt to get her daughter off of the death penalty. Another was a Carlsberg beer can, which acted as a symbol for one’s abusive, alcoholic father, whom she/he chose to cut ties with. On the other hand, some memoirs were of a lighter nature and seemed to be more relatable to the masses.
One such entry was a canvas of waves painted by a lover, to which the donor wrote a poem about, confessing that “I did not tell him I liked the waves of feelings he always made me feel when we were together. / I also did not tell him I almost drowned in those waves.”
The memoir for Painting of Waves explains the waves of emotions one often goes through in a relationship.
The message of having hope and ultimately healing was also prominent within many entries. For instance, the essence of letting go can be clearly seen in a donated container full of folded paper stars. This item served as a fond memory of a three-year friendship to one, who wrote a bittersweet story thanking their ex-best friends for the support they had then provided before conflicts arose, for the memories are “all so precious, and always will be”, and wishing them genuine happiness. Similarly, another entry titled “Blessings from Heaven” spread a strong message about trust and hope. The memoir accompanying it explained that the three jars, full of paper stars and swans, were amongst the few items which survived a house fire in 2016; a fire in which unfortunately one’s family did not survive. They represent hope as each swan and star was folded by the father of the household and the jars will forever help carry his legacy. Simultaneously, they make a comment about trust and the society we live in, because if our society was more trustworthy, perhaps the metal grills, which were an obstruction to the family when they attempted to escape the fire, wouldn’t have been there in the first place.
Though the Breakup Exhibition 2.0 clearly tugged at the heartstrings of many, half of its allure seemed to come from its relatability. The obvious themes of love and loss which lurked at the core of the exhibition were applicable to any and everyone who has experienced heartbreak in any form. However, many of these stories also shared the common theme of coming to terms with past relationships and moving forward. In this way, the exhibition proved to be extremely inclusive and held a certain communal aspect as it succeeded in creating an open space where people came together to share, learn, feel, empathize, and ultimately heal. The Breakup Exhibition 2.0 successfully concluded its final day with a special talk from guest speaker Mr. Kenny Lim, Executive Director of Befrienders Kuala Lumpur.
At heart, the exhibition fosters the hope that after graciously donating to the displays and leaving behind their possessions, the contributors would also be able to let go of their attachments and emotional baggage, and finally find some closure.