Anyone who experiences a grave setback in his life – a serious accident, a life-threatening illness, loss of a close relative – has to adapt his life in a short time to far-reaching changes. The world he used to live in has more or less gone and he has to make a new start. Only if he is successful in this he can resume his normal life. The Zealanders, experts in disasters as a result of their century-long struggle against the water, have summarized their survival process in the slogan ‘Luctor et emergo’ (I struggle and emerge). The Emergo machine shows how the devastated image of the world after a disaster is step by step being restored, and how man ‘emerges’ from it.

In Emergo, as in many of his machines, the artist plays with water. We see, like in ‘Break on through’, a grid reflected in water. When the start button is pushed, the image is cleared and then slowly rebuilt, drop by drop. The first drops are little islands, each containing all image information: the grid is visible in miniature format. When more drops fall the islands grow and cluster together in an unpredictable way. Finally they melt together to form a smooth surface. The image of the grid is restored: life has gone back to normality.