Emma Finn

The Sympathy Machination

on going project


In 1883 the snail telegraphy was built. This was the first technology capable of wireless communications but also a complete and utter scam. While this device no longer exists, it inspires us to look for technology in places where it might seem absent. 

Picking up from where the snail telegraph was last located (a Parisian sports hall), philosopher and snail Justin Erik Halldór Smith escorts us through the technological premise of the device and the ruse it generated. 

The device is gentle and invisible, a foil to Smith’s confident and dominant voice. It points the lens outward, looking for sympathy and interprations of technology in the sports that once surrounded it.  

The device’s inventor Jules Allix fused action at a distance and animal magnetism to tap into the romantic era’s pulse, capitalising on the rise of the occult to reach the unknown by attempting to harness the sympathetic bonds of mated snails.  Today, witchcraft has returned as we scramble to create new patterns of understanding, in this climate where the old narratives are failing, politically/socially and sympathy is still being sought. We want more natural forces to come to light, to connect the disparate strands and answer the irrational. 

Through this work (video, installation and textile work), I hope to harness these contrasting elements but also keep them from intersecting, separating the strands like the snails were themselves.