Legend of the Sea Lord
uses technological wizardry to create a mythological spectacle for people visiting the seafront. The installation attempts to sensitise Mumbai (India) citizens about water pollution and initiate a public dialogue on the issue.
Created entirely by Rawlley, the myth is as follows: fed up with the ignominy of the shores of Mumbai being treated as a waste disposal site, the Sea Lord decides to abandon the city altogether. The sea retreats, leaving behind piles of garbage strewn on the dry ocean floor. A horrible stink arises, and a terrible plague strikes the city. Seized with despair and deep repentance, the people plead and pray to Lord Ganesha – the most widely worshipped deity of Mumbai. Moved by their sincere apology, Lord Ganesha agrees to oblige, but only after warning them that this will be their last chance. He sends his trusted lieutenant, the Rat, to gather together all of the city’s rodents to eat the garbage. Blessed with divine force, the clean up is quick and efficient. Pleased with the result, the Sea Lord flows back to Mumbai’s shores, bringing with it the lovely breeze and abundant sea life and returning mobility to the stranded ships. The city of dreams is vibrant once again. But remember, there will be no second chance! (1)
Dialling the phone number of the Sea Lord triggers activation of an array of lights floating in the sea a short distance from the shore. The lights flash synchronously to the audio heard on the phone. A dramatic celestial voice answers the phone and informs the caller that the Sea Lord is extremely unhappy with Mumbai citizens for blatantly polluting its waters. To inform the caller of the catastrophe this could lead to, the voice narrates a short story about the Legend of the Sea Lord
— and the lights from the sea flash in harmony with the voice modulations, adding to the drama.
Callers may leave their own message on the Sea Lord's answering machine to express their concern over the pollution of the sea and attempt to appease the Sea Lord and prevent the catastrophe. The caller also has the ability to listen to messages recorded by other callers and leave a response to these. Inspired by the phenomenon of “phone phreaking,” Rawlley envisions the voicemail system as a localised and independent network where people can freely deposit messages and listen to others.
The artistic challenge of the project is to creatively mix technology and mythology to evoke public consciousness. By designing the installation as a seaside amusement and using the language of folklore, the installation attempts to create a device that has greater currency with the larger audience and will be able to generate public empathy for the ecology of the city.
By providing a public voicemail box, the project is also an attempt to generate public interaction and exchange of views through an unconventional and independent public forum, as opposed to sponsored opinion polls, television debates and radio talk shows.