Situation, 1985, Dominicanerkerk, Maastricht, Holland, Video

Admittedly, Pétursson began his career using an ordinary tape recorder as a medium around the time that the mechanical age was rapidly yielding ground to digital technology. In 1985 he set up a work in the Dominicanerkerk in Maastricht together with Dutch artist Leidi Haaijer, which consisted of 25 stereo cassette players and 750 wooden chairs. Titled Situation and well recorded on video, this performance gave an early indication of Pétursson's feeling for space and its potential. At Easter, the sounds - a mixture of human voices and electronic reproductions of a Gregorian chant and ringing of bells - were played through loudspeakers screwed to the cushions of golden chairs. Most of the loudspeakers where located in the quire and the flow of sound resounded constantly to transform the church into a single, all-pervasive musical sculpture.
This is an important point to bear in mind when trying to identify which side of the dividing line between music and visual art Pêtursson stands. Without the sensitivity he displays towards the settings of his works, he could safely be branded as a musician. But the Maastricht video shows that the harmony which Pétursson released with his 25 tapes and loudspeakers was not intended to leave the audience hypnotized in their seats. Like the 750 chairs spread across the floor of the Gothic church, the harmony was clearly intended to influence the spatial properties of the nave and flow through it like a river. When the space was activated in this way, the 750 wooden chairs acted as a multiple resonator on the giant instrument which the nave itself formed.