museum of intimacy

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” – Brene Brown 


Intimacy is everywhere. Where is yours? 

This is the invitation you receive as you take your first steps inside the Museum of intimacy – a collection of vulnerable memories and thoughts on intimacy curated by Manuela Dospina and Raisa Hagiu. 

One lives in Romania, the other in Berlin; one is a strategic planner at an advertising agency, the other is a visual artist. Their differences brought them together and their collaboration, as Manuela puts it, is like a process of constantly falling in love. 

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I was about 5 years old. My parents used to have parties at home, during which guests' children and I were sitting in another room to play or watch Cartoon Network. That was the rule. Children were not allowed in the adult room, because there were adult things: adult talks, adult drinks, alcohol and coffee, and especially smoking, which was completely forbidden for our health. My mother was always violating this rule for me: she would pour a glass of sour cherry for me, to trick the others that I'm actually an adult. She would hold me in her arms, while lighting herself a cigarette, and after the first puffs she would be making circles that were rising up to the ceiling and close to the place where I was standing on my chair. I was always breaking the rule. Sometimes she would puff and let me press her cheeks at the same time with my fingertips and there would be a lot of little circles that would make me laugh terribly. The other children did not need to know that I was part of the adult world. When I would return to the playroom, I would tell them that my mother had something important to say to me and they all had a lot of questions about how it was in there, but I was silent just like a wise initiator. This experience, beyond being playful, may be mistaken in some people's eyes, but it made me feel that things would always be different for me, that my mother would always go breaking the rules, that she will always be my partner in crime, and I will be part of her whole universe, composed of all sorts of people, from job problems to existential dramas and jokes of which I did not get. Mihai, 26 • #museumofintimacy #memories #stories #storytelling #childhood #cherish #vintage #oldphotography

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“All these stories are little slices of truth.“

The Museum of Intimacy is a project born out of friendship and out of deep and honest conversations around memories and past events in each of the girls’ lives. 

“We practiced from the beginning this exercise of remembering as a tool that helps you to dig deeper into your past and connect it to your present for a better understanding [of who you are now]. For us the intimacy was like a manifestation of the truth and I think that’s what this project is about: being true to yourself and all these layers that are coming and feeling whatever you feel.”

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I heard news today that my old lover is making his way north. Back to where he was when I originally found him. I can almost hear the trail in our old love songs being played in jukeboxes of empty shit bars that he’ll hit along the way. He’s looking for some sort of peace in the madness it takes to be a man. To sort through the pain of being human and facing the truth of ideas that we have of ourselves. Are they just ideas and memories of grandiose stories of self or are they real? Do they hold any truth? Are the mad, mad for a reason and a price to pay for being riddled with greatness. I laugh to myself and I can’t remember the term he used to use, I believe it was that he saw himself as a modern-day caveman. He was a savage of love. Watching him was like watching the storm come directly at you. I was not a victim of him and was just as guilty in partaking but I felt the wrath of his destruction as he passed through. He left me with weather torn lips and a memory of how all I wanted desperately was to be seen by the eye of his storm. His words echoing in my head like thunder in the distance telling me that he would leave a dog with his piercing green eyes so I could never forget him watching me like he will be with me always. Maybe that's why Ollie, my dog, has so many human qualities, carrying the good parts of his spirit. As I write of him I can only imagine the things he will or has written of me. Just the thought of his twisted mind writing words of our love past makes me smile. Writers write and I hope his fingers push against the keys of his passed down typewriter again with force. Some love is not to be forgotten, like old injuries that ache in your bones when it rains. May, 31 • #museumofintimacy #intimacy #memory #mind #words #typewriter #love #story #cherish #youonlyliveonce #acceptance #lessons

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“Intimacy is not about asking but about giving“, Raisa points out and the shortest visit to the museum stands evidence for these words. To each visitor that stops by to read the stories, the museum gives something in return and even if that something might not be the same for everyone or what is expected, everyone finds something they need. 

Paying a visit to the museum and reading story after story can take various shapes and meanings. From an old and familiar family album to an experimental piece of art or puzzle pieces of memories from other people’s lives, from a friend who listens or a therapeutic exercise, each interpretation talks about the same thing: what it means to be human.

And yet, having to bring your own contribution can prove challenging as revisiting the past and being true to oneself is not an easy thing to do. One has to put in the effort and a certain amount of energy to recall and relive moments which come with a wide spectrum of emotions. One has to be willing to show courage and honesty towards oneself. Sharing these personal experiences often comes with feelings of deep vulnerability and vulnerability is not always comfortable.

This is exactly what Manuela and Raisa noticed while curating stories for the museum. They also realised the entire process of gathering memories is like a relationship: trust and feelings are developed over time with small steps. What they managed to do was to create and nurture a place that people find safe and reassuring, where they are welcome to share their intimate stories without fear of judgement or shame. Through patience and listening, openness and empathy they are happy to see that even if people don’t choose to talk about their memories from the beginning, the Museum of Intimacy is present in their minds and they know they can always come to it.

Apart from the Instagram account which is the current home for the project, the girls organised a physical exhibition in Cluj, Romania, where they got a chance to see in real time how people reacted and interacted with these stories. And as it often happens with things that are honest and come from the heart, the reactions were overwhelmingly positive. 

“There were moments when they were crying. On the last day there was this girl who came in with flowers. She was lovely and happy and she stayed for 30 minutes and after that she left us a postcard with something very intimate and the flowers as a gift for the feelings she received, as a thank you.“

Through the exhibition they also got a glimpse of what the project might become and its importance on a larger scale.

A therapist expressed the desire to explain through a professional’s point of view the importance and the positive implications that sharing these experiences have on our wellbeing and our relationships and a teacher wanted to show it to her students and open doors to deeper, meaningful conversations. 

And of course, as the project developed, the girls too learnt and discovered new things about themselves. Raisa gained a deeper understanding on the spectrum of relationships people can have and how difficult they can be. She learnt that happiness comes for short periods of time and how important it is to show patience.

Manuela found strength and power in her vulnerability as compared to her past self when she identified it with a sign of weakness. Now, as she is in touch with her emotions and allows herself to be vulnerable around her friends and loved ones, she feels her relationships improved as well. 

So let’s close this with a thought for you, reader: take half an hour or an hour for yourself, find a comfortable place and think about a moment in your life when you experienced intimacy towards someone or something. And if you wish to hang it next to other memories head over to museumofintimacy@gmail.com and leave them your story.

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