Current is an interactive website that digitises key sites along Essex’s rivers, forming an immersive and creative digital archive. It was created by artist, Sian Fan and commissioned by Essex Cultural Diversity Project, Chelmsford City Council and Essex 2020.
To enable all features it is best experienced on a desktop or laptop on Chrome or Firefox.
Current allows you to deep dive into 5 different locations, exploring them in immersive, digital detail:
Within each page are a selection of digital artifacts captured from the physical site along the river. Some of these elements are created in collaboration with members of the community, including photogrammetric scans and underwater video footage. This material was captured as part of community workshops which made space for and encouraged creativity, conversation and exploration.
The site also hosts sound recordings of the river’s ambience, to be played whilst exploring the page and a Lidar scan of the physical site, creating a point cloud rendering of the location. This element is embedded into the page as an interactive environment that can be explored in 3D via the computer arrow keys, much like a video game. The viewer can walk through the environment virtually, allow a sense of space and physicality.
The website itself is an artwork, which acts to record and preserve the natural beauty of Essex’s waterways. It is designed to be remotely accessible and provides a virtual window to the physical river’s locations. It allows the viewer to journey along the river, discovering new details and even exploring areas like the riverbed that are inaccessible in physical reality. It also hopes to allow those less able to travel to experience and explore sites along the river remotely.
Current hopes to provide an opportunity for learning and for new experiences, enabling people to develop and discover new digital techniques, whilst encouraging them to engage further with their local environment. It seeks to realise an innovative, engaging and accessible artwork that can be explored easily, remotely, and for free.
The process of making Current revealed various insights, complexities and issues surrounding the waterways. The first being access, many of the more rural and as such more beautiful locations had no public transport available, making them inaccessible to large parts of the community. This essentially meant that driving was necessary, which is problematic environmentally in terms of emissions, but also in terms of the maintenance of the sites themselves. Most sites do not have designated parking, which leads to cars being parked in unideal locations that can cause damage.
In addition to the impact of the vehicles there is also the impact of visitors themselves. Many conversations explored the tension between wanting to attract visitors but needing to maintain a balance between our human footprint and the rural nature of the site. This combined with the lack of facilities (toilets, drinking water, bins, etc) at locations revealed a need to responsibly enable exploration whilst encouraging guardianship and conscientious behaviour. Within this need the issue of ownership and public vs private spaces came to the forefront. ‘Natural’ spaces were often viewed as public, but throughout the project I discovered various stakeholders involved in these seemingly public spaces. Within this issue of ownership, came the question of who would be responsible for providing facilities and how they could be sustainable?
The need for balance felt most prominent. Regardless of ownership the waterways are undeniably shared spaces, not just across different river users or stakeholders but also with the surrounding wildlife, which is exactly what makes each location so special. Above all the need to limit the human impact on these locations, whilst enabling them to be more accessible resonated most strongly.