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Show RCA 2019

Emma Finn

Show RCA work

Major project:

The Sympathy Machination

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

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

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. We want more natural forces to come to light, to connect the disparate strands and answer the irrational. Today, witchcraft has returned as we scramble to create new patterns of understanding, in this climate where the old narratives are failing, politically/socially.

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 themselves.


  • My work explores mistakes, as well as the black holes in technological history. Using moving image, drawing and other narrative devices, I aim to transport viewers to uncomfortable places that sit between reality and invention in order to create 'theoretical fictions' that explore theoretical issues such as communication, technology and non-human interconnection. I pull from absurd historical anecdotes, serving them up as antidotes to our present-day malaise.

    I envision history not as a map, or even a grand narrative, but as ideas cut short. Forgotten strands of time ready and waiting to be picked up and made into string figures. I want to challenge the way we understand communication and history, moving it away from an empirical and teleological framework, and enable discourse that is based on temporality non-linear practice.

  • Previous degrees

  • BA Intermedia Fine Art, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, 2010; BA Psychology and Classical Civilisations, National University of Ireland, Galway, 2008
  • Experiences

  • Freelance video editor, London, 2019; Workshop leader, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Edinburgh, 2016; Curatorial associate, Atlas Arts, NEO NEO // Extreme Past, Modern Gallery 1, Edinburgh, 2016; Invited speaker, ‘Pecha Kucha: Designing Art’, NET WT, Edinburgh College of Art, Embassy Annuale, 2016; Artist assistant, Edinburgh, 2015–16; Co-founder, Pollyanna, Paradise Palms, Edinburgh, 2015; Digital media technician, Edinburgh College of Art, UK, 2014–15
  • Exhibitions

  • 'Across The Slippery Pitch As A Speckled Murmur Follows', Hockney Gallery, London, 2019; 'Before Colloquy and Other Works by Emma Finn', MAP Magazine for Glasgow International, CCA Glasgow, 2018; 'Soapbox', CloseUp Cinema, London, 2019; 'I’ve a Feeling We're Not In Oz Anymore', Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, 2018; Cabbage present “Interviews”, Mount Florida, Glasgow, 2018; 'Theia', Worm, Rotterdam, 2018; 'Filmideo', Index Art Center, NJ, USA, 2017; 'Muscle Wire', Gerald Moore Gallery, London, 2017; 'Between Dog and Wolf', Galway Arts Centre, Ireland, 2017; 'Terra Nullius', Collective Misnomer, Denver, USA, 2016; Edinburgh Artist Moving Image Festival, FilmHouse, Edinburgh, 2016; 'Cherry Picker', Embassy Gallery, Edinburgh, 2016; 'Protect and Survive 2.0', Rhythm Machine, Old Vic, Glasgow & Wee Red, Edinburgh, 2016; 'Walkarounds', The Cameo, Edinburgh, 2016; 'First a Tent', Yokomizo Seishi Memorial Building, Yamanashi, Japan, 2016; 'Circus Between Worlds', Glasgow International, Glasgow, 2016; 'Drawing on Drawing', Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland, 2016; Edinburgh Artists’ Moving Image Festival, The Film House, Edinburgh, 2015; 'Double Mountain', Commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival, UK, 2015; Karen Eliot Presents, The OutHouse, Edinburgh, UK, 2015; GENERATOR Sci-Fi Christmas: Winter Wonderlands, The Hannah Maclure Centre, Dundee, UK, 2014; Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Hawick, UK, 2014; New Scottish Artists: An RSA Exhibition, Fleming Collection, London, 2014; New Contemporaries, RSA, Edinburgh, UK, 2014; 'Golden Mountain', Tulca Festival of Visual Art, Galway, Ireland, 2013
  • Awards

  • 'RELAX DIGITAL' Commission, CW+, London, 2019; Residency, Cité Internationale des Arts Paris, RCA Paris studios, 2018; Emerging Artist Bursary, Edinburgh City Council, 2016; 'Double Mountain' Commission, Edinburgh Art Festival, 2015
  • Sponsors

  • Cité International Des Arts; Gymnasium Lycée Charlemagne; Justin E H Smith; Cheyne Tillier-Daly; Leon Paul Fencing
Royal College of Art