Prie Dieu Capitalist Worship at a Cash Machine in Norway

Prie Dieu was a temporary installation in Stavanger, Norway. From Martyn Reed, the founder of NuArt, the name is latin for ‘Prayer Bench‘. It shows a wooden bench with cushioned kneeling area, complete with alternative prayer book. The light shining from the LED display of the cash machine shines down on would be worshippers.

Situated in the middle of the main square in Stavanger. The cash machine itself is overlooked by the cathedral. “It struck me, in the middle of the year, that this ATM had the Cathedral in full view whilst also being covered in multiple security cameras” said Martyn.

Prie Dieu (prayer bench) an installation by Martyn Reed in Stavanger, Norway
Prie Dieu (Prayer Bench) by Martyn Reed in Stavanger

“You can peel back the layers of meaning like a foodbank onion”

Martyn Reed
Cash Machine shining a light on a prayer bench in Stavanger, Norway
Situated in the centre of Stavanger with the Cathedral and Christmas Tree in the background

The Age of Surveillance

Staged to replicate a religious scene. Reed ordered the wooden prayer bench hand-made from a small religious community in mid-west America. A copy of Shoshana Zuboff’s ‘The Age of Surveilance Capitalism’ was then added in place of a bible. The book “basically posits that we are the product” said Martyn. He had been reading the book at the time that he formulated the idea.

Photographed by regular NuArt contributor, Brian Tallman. The two combined have created a striking image. Temporary in nature this is not an installation that was ever meant to last. At least, not in the streets of wintery Stavanger. Tallman’s images have given it a life beyond. Skilfully managing to capture the light streaming down from the machine as if it were streaming in from a window in a Cathedral.

Man prays on a wooden prayer bench in front of a cash machine. The light streams down on the man as if it were a religious moment
Praying at the alter of capitalism
Prayer Bench complete with ‘Bible’, Shoshana Zuboff’s ‘The Age of Surveilance Capitalism’

Prie Dieu (Prayer Bench) is very much a statement on the ills of modern society. A reflection on how capatilism and consumerism are becoming a new religion. “You can peel back the layers of meaning like a foodback onion” said Martyn Reed. Certainly it’s a striking image that doesn’t need much in the way of decoding. Sitting in the midst of one of the the most important festivals in the Christian Calendar, we ignore the tree and the house of God. Preferring to pray at the alter of cash and things.

Prie Dieu (Prayer Bench) was created by Martyn Reed and photographed by Brian Tallman. It was a temporary installation in Stavanger, Norway, home of the NuArt Festival during December 2020.

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