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On jars filled with art, walking, and community

It sounds simple enough. Every day during 2011, artist Kirsty Hall who lives in Bristol, UK, goes for a walk with a glass jar in her hand. Inside the glass jar is a small piece of art that she has created – a tiny ink drawing on Japanese paper, a braid of wire and beads, decaying roses from her garden, handwritten text on a long yarn of paper. 
Art and images copyright Kirsty Hall, 2011
She looks for a nook or a cranny in which she can place the jar—a spot where it won’t be too visible, but where it will eventually catch the eye of a passerby. When someone picks up one of the jars, they see a note inviting them to register their find on the project website. After that, they are free to keep the jar, or to ‘release the jar back into the wild,’ as Kirsty calls it.
From such simple ideas come very complex things. As I write, the 365 Jars project is now coming up to 99 jars left on garden walls and park benches around the Bristol and Clifton area. The project website meticulously documents in words and photos every jar, the piece of art inside it, where it was left, its current status (unknown, found, rereleased). There is a Flickr album with pictures of every jar and the place it was left. People who have found one or more jars have gone to the project site and answered a questionnaire about their find. Kirsty Hall calls herself a ‘purveyor of mad obsessive projects’, and she is proving that with every day that this jar project continues.
Copyright Kirsty Hall 2011.
Why did I notice this project? A lot of reasons. First, there are a lot of ‘one work of art a day’ projects on the internet these days, and the implied notion of a daily ritual practice evidently appeals to something in all of us. The art that Kirsty puts inside the jars is attractive in the way that small things always are, too. Like miniatures, the eye notices all the detail in a small area, making us want to look closer. It reminded me of the artist Richard Long, whose art projects consisted of walking for hundreds of miles, and photographing sculptures that he makes along the way by arranging stones in various configurations. The obvious difference is that Kirsty has very quickly created a collaborative project, in which the people who find the jar and perhaps place it somewhere else, for someone else to find, become linked in a chain of receiving and giving.

The whole project, in fact, is infused with a spirit of generosity, beginning with the artist’s mad, obsessive dedication of so much time to create a piece of art and then give it away the next day. Do I need to remind anyone that Bristol is also linked with the graffiti art-clown Banksy? The 365 jars project, in contrast to the smash and grab nature of Banksy’s work, insinuates itself quietly and non-destructively into a public space.

It’ll be fascinating to see how the art develops by the end of 2011, the connections that the project makes between its fast-growing community of admirers, and the conclusions that the artist herself draws about the process.

Tomorrow: An interview with Kirsty Hall.
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