The Museum of Broken Relationships

Museum of Broken Relationships prosthetic limb 1992

An under-knee prosthetic limb, Croatia, 1992. “In a Zagreb hospital I met a beautiful, young and ambitious social worker from the Ministry of Defense. When she helped me to get certain materials, which I, as a war invalid, needed for my under-knee prosthesis, the love was born. The prosthesis endured longer than our love. It was made of better material!”

Museum of Broken Relationships broken dwarf

Divorce day dwarf, Slovenia. “… He arrived in a new car. Arrogant, shallow and heartless. The dwarf was closing the gate that he had destroyed himself some time ago. At that moment it flew over to the windscreen of the new car, rebounded and landed on the asphalt surface. It was a long loop, drawing an arc of time – and this short long arc defined the end of love.”

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Last meals of death row convicts by James Reynolds

James Reynold's 'Last Suppers' Series: photograph of the last meal requested by Louis Jones Jr, selection of exotic fruits.

Last Suppers series by James Reynolds. A variety of fruit requested by Louis Jones Jr, executed for kidnapping, rape and murder in Indiana in 2003.

James Reynold's 'Last Suppers' Series: photograph of the last meal requested by John Wayne Gacy, fried chicken and beans.

Last Suppers series by James Reynolds. KFC requested by John Wayne Gacy, executed in Illinois in 1994 for the rape and murder of at least 33 teenage boys between 1972 and 1978.

James Reynold's 'Last Suppers' Series: photograph of the last meal requested by Victor Feguer, a single black olive.

Last Suppers series by James Reynolds. A single olive requested by Victor Geguer, executed in Iowa in 1963 for the kidnapping and murder of a doctor.

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GUEST POST: A jar of pickled moles, haunting trees, Friday disasters and anatomy museum corpses- a smorgasbord of interesting things from curator Neil Lebeter

Jar of pickled moles from the Grant Museum of Zoology, University College London.

Jar of pickled moles from the Grant Museum of Zoology, University College London. (Image: xtinalamb, via Flickr. Click image to go to source)

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Museum accession numbers are like gang tattoos

Left column: Museum objects with permanent accession numbers. Right column: Latin Kings gang tattoos.

Left column: Museum objects with permanent accession numbers. Right column: Latin Kings gang tattoos.

I think one of the most bizarre museum practices is the act of marking museum artefacts with an accession number. Like the tattoos of gang members, it is a permanent symbol which marks their lifelong membership in a collective from which they can never again be completely separate.

The most common tattoo among gangsters of all nationalities is one that denotes the gang that they are in. This is seen as the mark of lifelong membership. The gang ethos of “blood in, blood out”–the idea that the prospective member must kill someone as the price of admission to the gang and cannot leave except by dying himself–is embodied in the tattoo as a sign of permanent belonging to the gang.

- Linda Goldberg, “Gang Tattoos: Signs of Belonging and the Transience of Signs” (2001)

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Agnes Richter’s embroidered straitjacket

Embroidered straitjacked by asylum patient Agnes Richter, 1890s.

Straitjacket embroidered by asylum patient Agnes Richter in the 1890s. (Image: This Is Not Modern Art tumblr)

Agnes Richter was a German seamstress held as a patient in an insane asylum during the 1890s. During her time there, she densely embroidered her straitjacket with words, undecipherable phrases and drawings which  documented her thoughts and feelings throughout her time there. This remarkable object was collected by Hans Prinzhorn, a psychiatrist who ardently collected the artwork of his patients at a Heidelberg psychiatric hospital in the early 20th century. Continue reading

From the dusty corners of the museum…Cornelia Parker

Cornelia Parker, "The Negative of Whispers", 1997. Ear plugs made of dust collected at the Whispering Gallery in St Paul's Cathedral, London.

Cornelia Parker, “The Negative of Whispers”, 1997. Ear plugs made of dust collected at the Whispering Gallery in St Paul’s Cathedral, London. (Image: Baltic, via One Night At The Sands)

I am more curious about the elements that, by being so widespread, are usually for that very reason shielded from view. The voices of dust, the soul of dust, these interest me a lot more than flowers, trees or horses because I take them to be stranger. -Jean Debuffet

Another artist enamoured with dust is British sculptor Cornelia Parker, perhaps best known for her 1991 work Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, or her 1997 Turner Prize nomination. Her 1997 piece “The Negative of Whispers”, for example, is a set of earplugs crafted from dust collected in the Whispering Gallery of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Continue reading