Fenlandia was one of a series of digital art works commissioned for the group show Silicon Fen – an overview of the distinctive, often man-made landscape of East Anglia that sought to examine some of the landmark innovations we associate with the region (land reclamation; engineered networks of water distribution) in relation to its contemporary identification as a seedbed for new technology. The mainstay of Collins’ project was a webcam feed that was put into position for a year at a location near Ely in Cambridgeshire, looking out over a familiar Fenland patchwork of low-lying land, adjoining a river, and bisected not only by the ever-present horizon but also by a parallel tracery of run-off channels and drainage dykes. A steady stream of images was sent back to a central computer where they were processed into composite durational pictures in which each individual pixel represented a particular moment in time. Recording fluctuations in the light, and wider seasonal changes, this year-round web-watch resulted in an abundance of intricate and evocative views; many of which were extracted, and highlighted on the accompanying website and, later, printed and framed.
As part of the Silicon Fen initiative, a companion webcam was also sited, for a shorter period, at Cambourne Business Park near Cambridge, contrasting the apparently timeless ‘natural’ landscape of the riverside setting with the green-field environments of the area’s technology campuses and research parks. This pairing was repeated in other parts of the country that had become known as technology centres: the M4 corridor in Berkshire (‘Silicon Valley’), and Scotland’s ‘Silicon Glen’; the latter eventually giving rise to the piece’s mirror-image and alter ego, ‘Glenlandia’. As a final chapter, Collins returned to Ely to exhibit a number of prints from the original source of the project, and added a tributary webcam stream of a new waterside scene overlooking the gallery building.