What on the earth is the Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale?

Artist Haley McGee gives us the lowdown on the latest exhibition at Euston’s Meanwhile Art Space

Hayley McGee with her work at Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale


ave you ever wondered what the cost of love is? When a relationship turns sour, can sentimental value be given monetary worth? Hailing from Canada, Haley McGee is a solo performer and theatre-maker who has spent a great deal of time researching this very subject: she created the pop-up that’s currently gracing Meanwhile Art Space.

The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale involves objects from McGee’s own past boyfriends, an interactive opportunity for the audience to contribute their own stories about what love has cost them and testimonials from the ex-boys themselves. Passers-by are welcome to breeze through or stay for longer.

It’s part of a wider body of work that includes a live show, premiering at Camden People’s Theatre in November. Our advice? Visit this thought-provoking yet amusing installation at 1 Euston Square at some point over the next few days: it’s only around ‘til Friday. We talk to the actor and writer about the project.

Tell Me About The Cost of Your Love - Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale
Quantifying love. Photo: Laura Evans

Where did the idea come from?
A couple of years ago I got into credit card debt and found myself on the phone to Visa promising to pay my bill off by having a yard sale – I just blurted it out, I was bargaining with them. I looked around my apartment and realised the only things I could sell had been given to me by different people I’d dated over the years. There was a diamond and sapphire necklace, a guitar, a typewriter and a really nice bike; I started pondering what these things were really worth, given all the ways I’d invested in the partnerships? I decided I couldn’t sell the items and that I had to make a show about whether or not we can come up with an accurate price that reflects how valuable objects are to us.

What’s your plan?
I’m working with mathematician Melanie Phillips, taking all the data and creating a formula that will calculate a cash amount for the things we’re left with after a split. I don’t know how satisfying the number will be, but we’re going to do it.

What degree of time and emotion have you devoted to a partner?
I took a bus to visit the man who gave me the necklace and someone had wedged a scalpel between two seats; I moved to get comfortable and the knife went through my new jeans into my bum. I suffered a flesh wound for this piece of jewellery, surely that must affect its valuation? I pined after the fella who gave me the bike for seven weeks, we dated for three years and then it took a good year-and-a-half to get over him – it was a huge investment.

What’s the funniest story you’ve heard regarding a breakup?
One girl had her ex’s car towed and impounded because she was so irritated with him.

Typewriter and bicycle at Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale
Two gifts given to Haley by ex-boyfriends. Photo: Laura Evans

How about the saddest?
A horrendous situation where a woman whose partner of 25 years left her when she going through chemo. He’s now marrying someone else. Another person realised they wanted out but stayed in the entanglement for 24 years.

And the quirkiest?
One lady declared she would like his balls for earrings.

Come on, give us your best anecdote.
I’ve been carrying around the jewelled pendant since I was 19 and was really nervous asking my ex to do an interview with me about it because I thought he would worry I was devaluing our time together. But when we actually spoke he confessed he has no memory of buying it for me. Another one: the typewriter was from a fella who cheated on me, and I discovered that it was with one of my good friends – he sent us the same text and Facebook messages.

How’s it been getting back in touch with ex-boyfriends?
I’ve found it really moving, it’s been an excuse to reconnect with people. My affection has increased in a way, and very confusingly too.

On that note, do you want to date any of them again?
I definitely felt quite razzle-dazzled by the guy who gave me the bike.

This is box title
The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale closes on 22nd June, free entry at Meanwhile; Art Space, 1 Euston Square NW1, more here. Catch the live show at the Camden People’s Theatre on 24th November and 1st December, more info here.

Main image: Laura Evans

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