A Tale of Personal Exchange

WORDS & ARTWORK Jennifer Parlane
MLA (Dist),. BPlan (Hons). Landscape Architect at Boffa Miskell


We know that exchange envelops all processes and relationships within the landscape, giving it an all-encompassing, almost otherworldly, quality. But for me, the experience of exchange was quite personal.

According to its organisers, the concept behind the 100 Days Project was simple: “Choose one creative exercise, and then repeat it every day for 100 days. Record each daily effort and see what evolves in the work and in the self over time.”
 
Over 2,000 people from around the world committed to participating in the project, which ran from 11 July to 18 October 2014. The results would be collated and shared; the epitome of ‘exchange’ in its rawest form.  I called my project Drawn to the Natives.
 
My challenge was to draw a plant each day native to the country I was in. The objective: to boost my plant knowledge and to keep up my drawing skills.  Helpfully, the project coincided with a planned holiday, which took me from New Zealand to England, Sweden, Holland and Scotland, and then back home again.
 
If exchange is the transfer of something between two things, with my project over, I’m now in a position to reflect on what I gave and received in return.
 
There was the give and take of effort and reward. The project required discipline; setting aside time and energy to explore, discover and then draw that day’s native plant. In exchange, I explored parts of cities that I might not otherwise have found and conversations with people I may not have had and was rewarded with experiences and a travel diary quite unlike any other.
 
There was also the literal exchange of taking a three-dimensional object and representing it in two-dimensional form. Each plants imperfections and individual qualities had to be conveyed, and I made an effort to avoid finding perfect specimens, preferring instead to choose honest examples with their tattered edges or bug-bitten holes.
 
I found these forms of exchange transformative.  They provided me with an opportunity to grow – both personally and creatively – and permission to test my limits and myself. If the cost was effort, the reward was the satisfaction of a finished product.
 
This product was never intended to result in exchanges beyond the personal. I didn’t really participate in the project to share the results with an audience wider than just myself. But there’s an uncertain quality to exchange that can be difficult to predict - that moment of interpretation after the exchange.

So who knows, perhaps an unintended consequence of my exchange will be effects beyond just the personal?