Three Mile Creek



'Three Mile Creek Alyssa Rothwell' The Age 17 September (1997)

Review of Three Mile Creek, CD-ROM by Alyssa Rothwell at the e-media gallery, Centre for Contemporary Photography

The computer has been much celebrated as a creative medium, yet opportunities to see multimedia art have been few. With the e-media Gallery, Experimenta provides an opportunity to scrutinise the current crop of local CD-ROMs.

Thus far, it has revealed a particularly Australian take on multimedia. Titles from Europe are often Myst-like opportunities for lone navigation. By contrast, works at e-media are conversational. They are in the vein of Michael Buckley’s The Swear Club, a seminal CD-ROM of Melbourne’s inner west.

Currently playing is Alyssa Rothwell’s Three Mile Creek. As you move the mouse through the opening screen, a young girl’s voice announces elements from a typical Aussie farm. When the cursor turns into an ear, we can get a ‘look listen’ on a particular element such as insects in a bush.

As usual with multimedia works, this screen offers entry into separate realms. In a classic scene of bush comedy, three men sit on a fence, croaking about the dry weather. Your cursor helps shoo the flies from their backs. Chooks perched on a clothesline can be taught to sing; and a swooping magpie patrols a break in the trees. Each realm has its recursive charm.

Of the five realms, Dad’s living room is the most poetic. Moonlight Sonata, played on an old upright, accompanies a dream-like animation about working the land. The broad liquid strokes use the pixels well to represent life on a tractor. This is followed by a slide-show, where the ever-present flies witness photographs of what we presume is the artist’s childhood.

One of the pleasures native to multimedia art is the ‘wait’ screen. Like screen savers and arcade games, CD-ROMs made for art galleries often have an automated sequence that takes over the screen when it is left alone for a period.

The default screen in Three Mile Creek is a bush version of the willow pattern, the famous Chinese landscape appropriated by Wedgwood. It contains devices distinctive of the outback, including windmill, creek, backyard, poultry, and a squeaky gate. A bird occasionally flies across, reminding us there are other realms to explore. Michael Harir’s music and soundscape baths the diorama in a mellow ambience.

While the flow between different realms is smooth and free of bugs, the screen rendering is not seamless. The animations would be more effective if continuous with the background. On a less technical note, the occasionally cloying voice robs the work of some poetry. These problems aside, Three Mile Creek is an imaginative extension of a new medium into familiar realms.