Franz Emminger, Reni Hofmüller, Norbert Math, and Elisabeth Schimana dedicated their performance "Nussbaumertisch and Tesla Coil" to two pioneers of radio, one of them widely unacknowledged, while the other is admired and controversial, but without doubt is a radio legend.
At the Institute for Media Archeology in Hainburg, Lower Austria, the artists were able to work and experiment with the so-called „Nußbaumertisch“, on loan from the Technical Museum in Vienna, as well as – their great surprise! – with a Tesla coil that Franz Emminger had constructed especially for the event. Their sound and transmission experiments were embedded in a narrative soundscape of historical and contemporary radio samples.
Already in 1904, the Austrian physicist and radio pioneer Otto Nußbaumer succeeded in transmitting his voice, and was the first among all competitors exploring wireless data transmission to do so. Worldwide, only around a dozen researchers were exploring this new technology then, that – opening up new possibilities of communicating – was of interest especially for maritime traffic, as well as for military uses. For the first time in history, Nußbaumer, born in 1876 in Wilten near Innsbruck, singing the Styrian anthem "Hoch vom Dachstein her" successfully broadcast a piece of music at the Technical University in Graz; the transmission worked over a distance of around 20 metres, through several rooms. Although Nußbaumer published his transmission experiment based on a so-called "Funkensender" in a scientific journal, his apparatus remained economically irrelevant (and thus, from a technical point of view, can not be regarded as groundbreaking innovation). Later, Nußbaumer retreated from scientific research and worked as an official.
Precisely 100 years later, on June 15 2004, the physicist Helmut Jäger and Gerhard Kasper (former technical director of the ORF studios in Styria) against all odds successfully repeated Nußbaumer’s transmission experiment with trumpeter Toni Maier who played the „Dachsteinlied“ at the location of the Technical University in Graz; by doing so, they were able to clearly verify the functionality of Nußbaumer’s apparatus which uptil then had remained somewhat enigmatic.
Nikola Tesla, a dazzling inventor, whose patents and theoretical work formed the basis of alternating current electric power and who was widely respected as America’s greatest electrical engineer, is also one of the fathers of radio. With an especially developed coil, a high voltage transformer for high-frequency altenating currents, Tesla wanted to transmit electrical energy on a wireless basis; this experiment was without success, but the Tesla coil, instead, generates strong electro-magnetic waves. The electric discharge creates a lightening-like phenomenon and is visually very impressing; around the end of the performance, as their final experiment, the artists started up such a Tesla coil that Franz Emminger had built especially for the occasion.