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Mending Hearts with Pop Up Museum on “F my Ex”

Posted by on February 19, 2013

How do we deal with heartbreak? What do we do with the memory-wrenching remnants of a failed relationship?

Dramatic yet cozy, The Red’s Victorian Gothic aesthetic created the perfect atmosphere for a Pop Up Museum on “F my Ex”

The Pop Up Museum on “F my Ex” held at local bar, The Red, invited people to bring something from a failed relationship– art, cd’s, old clothes, etc– and share their breakup stories over cocktails and a roaring fireplace.

The result was a powerful gathering of friends and strangers sharing highly intimate stories and objects. See more pictures on MAH’s facebook album.

Inspired by the Museum of Broken Relationships, we wanted to throw a Pop Up that got at the raw, emotional pain of heartbreak. For those unaware, the Museum of Broken Relationships exhibits personal belongings and stories from people all over the world. As they put it,

The Museum offers a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the Museum’s collection…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.

The exhibited objects transformed into vehicles for human connection, gaining new associations and meanings.

The emotional effects of failed relationships are strong to say the least. Arresting, sometime debilitating, we often don’t know what to do with ourselves, let alone the objects left behind. We offered people a chance to confront and reclaim the physical leftovers of past loves by sharing them with others.

In addition to the participants’ objects, the MAH exhibited a few items from our permanent collection, including a turn-of-the century diary detailing an adulterous marriage.

Having “F my Ex” the day before Valentines Day gave it a thematic boost. “F my Ex” is often a subtext of bar conversations (especially those held around Valentines), thus the theme gave people a legitimate reason so share love stories. Supported by visually powerful objects, the conversations didn’t just consist of drunk lamenting— though The Red’s Pop Up Happy Hour Special didn’t hurt.

This beautiful flyer hand-drawn by Pop Up Museum Intern, Anthony Torrano, caused many smiles but surprised a few MAH members.

Not everyone brought something to exhibit, or knew of the event at that, but it didn’t take long for most bar patrons to be sharing “F my Ex” stories.

“F my Ex” is a bold theme, perhaps equally attractive, as it is off-putting. When distributing flyers, many recipients laughed, saying “f*** yeah,” “this is awesome” or something of the likes. But in promoting the event on MAH’s newsletter, we upset one of our longtime MAH members and history lovers, who was concerned the theme misrepresented the holiday.

This disparate audience response raised questions over how we should target Pop Up Museums – which are more so for nontraditional audiences – to our Museum’s traditional audience.

Museum director Nina Simon asked, “should we pull our traditional audience along with us to this new world of programming, or are we developing this new program to build a bridge to people with different concerns and hangups?”

We don’t have the answers yet. But we believe the tension that arises with more daring themes will help us learn more about our potential audience, as well as what kinds of programming people expect from a museum. Are people less likely to participate in an establishment which promotes events they find occasionally offensive?

Perhaps we can consider the Pop Up Museum as MAH’s wacky cousin— slightly remote, unpredictable, and less constrained to traditional expectations, the Pop Up Museum explores social and individual behavior through isolated thematic contexts. Each Pop Up is a unique social project, one that not only experiments with social interaction through physical media, but people’s expectations of the “museum experience.”