The great warrior king of 17th-century India, Shivaji Maharaj, fought off Europeans and their imperialist ambitions. To protect a group of islands in the Arabian Sea, Maharaj designed a series of stone walls that snake the perimeters of the islands. It kept the Europeans and, somewhat unintentionally, the ocean water out.
To Glenn Weiss, a Delray Beach artist and environmentalist passionate about sea-level rise, Maharaj's feat can be seen as one of the first responses to rising seas on low-lying barrier islands and deltas. Now, Weiss is trying to promote that same kind of far-out thinking that might just save the world from sea-level rise. He’s launching the Shivaji Competition. Artists, designers, architects, engineers, planners, scientists, and writers are asked to come up with solutions to sea-level rise on islands and deltas.
“What’s going to happen to the non-built-up areas in Saigon, Mumbai, Bombay? All these places are heavily populated with low-rise buildings,” Weiss says. “Although the case in South Florida is a very serious thing, it’s not where the worst disasters will happen, where people are powerless to take action.”
Contest entries need not be too technical or scientific. But they must be submitted in 20-second GIF format.
“It can be fun — anything to help motivate politicians and other activists to keep going and get the word out,” Weiss says. “I expect a range of things, from very practical do-it-yourself ideas to giant dyke systems and humorous thoughts that are absolutely ridiculous but lead to a heartfelt point.”
Submissions are due March 10. There’s no entry fee. There will be 25 finalists determined by Weiss and Buster Simpson, an urban environmental artist. Since submissions will be in GIF format, Weiss will be able to easily share the ideas on social media to raise awareness.
Though there is no cash prize, one winner will be selected to attend the Rising Waters Confab. That is, a monthlong meeting of scientists, activists, and artists at the Rauschenberg Residency, the old home of painter and graphic artist Robert Rauschenberg, on Captiva Island. The winner will receive round-trip travel to attend the meeting for its last week, May 19-26, 2016.
Weiss attended the Rising Water Confab the year before. Discussions among the ten artists, all chosen for their interest in sea-level rise, were inspiring.
“This is my contribution to keeping this dialogue going,” Weiss says.
Finalists will be announced April 1. They will appear in an online publication released May 23 that will be distributed to museums, institutions, and film festivals around the world.
So far, one person has submitted an entry, which surprised Weiss. He didn’t expect many submissions until closer to the deadline. He hopes for submissions from people all over the world.
“I’m getting good responses in India and Mexico,” he says. “Sea-level rise will affect people all over the world, not just South Florida.”