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PRAYER COMPANION: KEEPING PRAYER PERTINENT IN THE DIGITAL AGE

May 24, 2012  |  Collection & Exhibitions
Prayer Companion: Keeping Prayer Pertinent in the Digital Age

Market Buzz: Digesting Euro Turmoil……….Monsters laughed during gang rape……….Regime bulldozers pave space for Euro vision……….I feel everything will be okay……….EU to cash in on Libya………..Somali radio reporter murdered………..Dancers urge action on anorexia………..

Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths, University of London. Prayer Companion. 2010. Photopolymer resin, dot-matrix display, and printed circuit board. Image courtesy Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths University of London, UK

These are topics of concern being transmitted to the Poor Clare Sisters, an enclosed order of nuns living in a monastery in York, England, by way of a new device called the Prayer Companion.  The Prayer Companion, or “Goldie” as the nuns have come to call it, is an elegant, clerical-looking electronic device designed by Goldsmiths University Interaction Research Studio.

Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths, University of London. Prayer Companion. 2010. Photopolymer resin, dot-matrix display, and printed circuit board. Image courtesy Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths University of London, UK

Reminiscent of the Cross of Tau, it comfortably resides on a side table in a communal space within the monastery looking not unlike a reliquary box or some sacred vessel from which pours forth a steady stream of current headlines. An attached, behind-the-scenes computer receives the transmissions gathered from selected news feeds and social networking sites.

The design team at Goldsmiths envisioned the Prayer Companion specifically for the Poor Clares. From the onset, the designers were interested in working on a project involving technology for older people, as well as one that could explore the role that technology can play in religious and spiritual activities. Most of the sisters are in their 80s, and have devoted their lives to prayer, including prayer of intercession in which they act as “translators” between humans and God, helping people reach the Higher Being. Their interaction with the outer world is limited by circumstance. With its understated design, the Prayer Companion unobtrusively connects their monastic world with the world outside. The device perfectly fulfills the working goals of the design team, and brilliantly serves the prayer life of the sisters.

Don Quixote said, “There must be all sorts in the world; and though we may be all knights, there is a great difference between one and another.” Nun or drummer, waitress or writer, artist, explorer, or bus driver, we each have our own way of being, our own personal mandate—a path to follow, an ideal that defines us and gives meaning to our existence in our world and in our community. Too often our personal mandates isolate us and drive us apart. But occasionally they intersect, and a dazzling connection happens. When the work of the Interaction Research Studio met that of the Poor Clares, all became illuminated.

Installation view of the exhibition Talk to Me: Design and Communication between People an Objects at The Museum of Modern Art, July 24 to November 7, 2011. Photographer: Thomas Griesel

There are only two  Prayer Companions—the original in the Poor Clares monastery and another created for MoMA’s exhibition Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects, which was on view last fall. MoMA’s Prayer Companion, acquired for the collection in 2011, is currently on view in the exhibition Born out of Necessity.

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