The Emergence Lab

The Emergence Lab
2014 to 2016
Undergraduate Research

Since 2014, the Emergence Lab has been a site of interdisciplinary teaching, research, and collaborative creative work at the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels. Through its cross-listed seminars, workshops, exhibits, and publications the Emergence Lab facilitates new ways of making and thinking about art in multiple media. It aims to include as many Duke students and faculty as possible in these explorations.

The lab's focus is generative art. In contrast to traditional art creation, in which an artwork is the record of decisions made by the artist, generative art is typically made according a series of instruction. The instructions are often carried out by software but sometimes they're carried out by people. There is some degree of unpredictability created through computer-generated randomness or natural or human processes. Furthermore, generative processes are not tied to a specific medium—the same algorithms can be applied to musical or visual information, for example.

The Emergence Lab draws students to work in fields other than their area of specialization. For instance, computer science students write poetry, and music students make visual art. The engagement often refreshes their thinking when they return to their primary work.

Past student projects in the lab include a haiku generator and an engineering student's distinction project called Making Music with Motion, which resulted in a design that the student was able to patent.

The lab is an extension of the creative work of its co-founders, John Supko and Bill Seaman. Their joint project, s_traits, is an album of generative electronic music that made the New York Times list of top classical recordings in 2014. Other recent projects include Supko's generative music software, Second Factory, and Seaman's collaboration with Duke biologist Sonke Johnsen, "Luminous Hands," which places images of luminous sea creatures in a generative 3D world.


Bill Seaman
Professor of Art, Art History and Visual Studies
John Supko
Hunt Family Assistant Professor of Music