San Marcos, TX
Spring 2019

Emergent Observer is a project by Holly Veselka, a conceptual artist based in central Texas. Using the Edwards Aquifer artesian zone as a test site, Emergent Observer assumes the role of a technological naturalist. Characterized by clear water springs in an otherwise harsh climate, this area has been inhabited by humans for an estimated 20,000 years. Following the 1830 Indian Removal Act, the springs were dammed—used for industry, municipal water supply, or recreation. Endemic species became endangered or extinct. Many springs were contaminated or dried up. Some remain but their loss has been foreshadowed. How can digital collection tell the story of this area’s natural history?

“Neither a land nor a people ever starts over clean. Country is compact of all its past disasters and strokes of luck–of flood and drouth, of the caprices of glaciers and sea winds, of misuse and disuse and greed and ignorance and wisdom–and though you may doze away the cedar and coax back the bluestem and mesquite grass and side-oats grama, you're not going to manhandle it into anything entirely new. It's limited by what it has been, by what's happened to it. And a people, until that time when it's uprooted and scattered and so mixed with other peoples that it has in fact perished, is much the same in this as land. It inherits.”

John Graves, Goodbye to a River

The images to the right are of textures collected from field work around central Texas’ springs.  Like these natural areas, the images are beautiful and precious, fragmented and broken, fading in color and context.