Skip to main content

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.
 Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

The Brant Hardware and Implement Company, by Jeanne Locke Johnson

I taught a day long journal and sketchbook class recently, at the Interlochen College of Creative Arts in northern Michigan. One of the activities was called Writing in Place, devised by my writerwife Patricia Ann McNair. A participant in the class, Jeanne, wrote the piece I'm reprinting below. As soon as she began reading it back in the class, I knew straight away I was hearing a really good piece of writing. The image was also by Jeanne, made in the collage class the day before the journal and sketchbook class.



I

I remember going to the Hardware after school. The bus dropped us off at the house. If I was feeling the need to make money, or Dad needed work done, I walked to the store. If Mom or Dad were in sight, I checked in while clocking in on the old time clock punch card. Usually, I needed to dust displays or clean the bathrooms, or wash windows. My favorite was filling the old pop machine. I had to get the keys, check inventory for flavors, empty the change bucket, clean the…