︎ Visit Manisha’s website
1. Define in any form, a workhorse
2. Create a visualization / pattern of what you imagine a workhorse to be
3. Consider your relationship to the workhorse you imag(in)ed
4. Mark your position in relation to the workhorse
5. Share the remnants and traces of your participation in considering the
relationship between being and doing, vis a vis workhorses.
We were discussing the relationality of being industrious as artist, art educator, academic, vis a vis doing for industry as member, employee, producer working for a market, as we drove through a vast landscape of machinic extraction in the oil fields of rural Texas. Observing the iron workhorses endlessly go through the motions of their designed task, we explored the complexity of defining a workhorse: from its etymological roots and linguistic variations, to its contemporary socio-cultural connotations. Inevitably, we came to the question of how we value “value”, i.e, success, achievement, progress - institutionally (for a market) and/ or individually (for mental, spiritual, emotional well-being).
Questions emerged, becoming:
What does it mean to “be driven” in life and work?
What are the principle attributes of being and doing that make the idea of the workhorse redundant?
How might we [re]consider our assessment of validity in learning and doing, in formal and informal ways, when we realize that in choosing efficiency in adopting/ discarding ways of acquiring and using knowledge, we discarded/ deferred / erased other ways of being/ doing; and in doing so, articulated a form and definition of “success”?
Is there such a thing as an ideal workhorse? What might it look like?
How do we feel about being /not being workhorses and driving/not driving workhorses in our involvement with industriousness and industry?
Manisha Sharma, PhD is Associate Professor, Art and Chair of the Art and Visual Culture Education program at the University of Arizona School of Art. Her research and teaching unpacks the role of identity in the teaching of art, strategizes community-oriented arts programming, and explores decolonizing art education practices.
Prashast Kachru is a conceptual artist, currently in his second year in the Intermedia MFA program at Arizona State University. He has studied, lived and worked in India, France, and Sweden. His current work explores the nature of materiality and toxicity of materials in artistic socio-cultural and political spheres.
Shagun Singha and Akhila Singha:
These illustrations were created in between reflections of what a workhorse meant to us. For Akhila, a workhorse represented a suspension of self, an entrapment of the inner child and a disguise worn as protection from the outside working world. Akhila’s visualization included in it Eckhart Tolle’s book How to be present in your life as an ironic juxtaposition, and marks her position as one wearing a mask.
For Shagun, a workhorse meant an evolution similar to that of a pokémon or piñata. The xbox video game series Viva Piñata depicts colourful piñata animals living within the boundaries of a self-sustained ecosystem, micromanaged by a well-meaning caretaker. Shagun’s relationship to work is marked by a sense of control, and occupation of unmarked space, and the feeling of being trapped within a game. Shagun marks her position as a Horstachio, the second evolution of this piñata character.
Akhila’s visualization of a workhorse
Shagun’s visualization of a workhorse
To me, a workhorse is an unstoppable force. It’s someone with the desire to keep on going no matter the circumstance. It’s tenacity and courage.
My Workhorse figure represents how I see myself in relation to work. I often feel as if I spend my days struggling to stay afloat, swimming in an endless sea looking for land… Somewhere to get my footing and rest. Work is a constant in daily life, there’s no avoiding it or going around it. Therefore I must go through it. The workhorse mentality, that undying tenacity, cuts through the water and parts the sea. It’s about continuing even when I feel like I’m drowning. One step at a time, keep my eyes fixed on the horizon and go onward.
After reading through the responses on the website, I saw that most responses were horses in a workforce or work setting. This made me think about how us Americans are such workaholics. Right when we turn 16 and can drive, it is expected that we get a job while going to high school. Right out of high school it is expected that you go to college and work a part time job or work a full time job. After then, it is expected that you will find a career and work for a very long time. My overall point of this, is that America is a workaholic country and that it is expected that you are always working. My nana tells me about all of these stories from when she was my age. She was able to travel, see the world and just live her life young and have a great time. Now this is not allowed because in order to do all of these things, you need money and you need to work. Keep in mind that businesses and employers never want to give us time off. It is so crazy how devoted we have to be to working. America is a workaholic country that expects everyone to work so we can pay taxes and what not. I drew a workhorse with the American flag inside of it to symbolize America and the workforce.
This is my work horse. And behind it is me. Far away. In the middle of a lake. On a tiny island. I cannot get to the horse.
Alfred S. H.
When I think of a workhorse I think of my mother. Three kids and three grandchildren all at once living under the same roof, she worked all day and still came home to cook and feed us. My definition of a workhorse isn’t someone that has many roles because someone can do many things at once, but not excel in any of them. Sahe excelled at being a provider. A workhorse produces results and that's exactly what she did on a daily basis.
A workhorse. A tool used to complete a task. Something that provides the physical power needed to achieve said task. Whether the tool be a material object, or another person or creature.
My workhorse goes by the name, Black Eagle. A tool used to create high pressure and stream, to extract oils from a seed which is served to those awaiting it’s product. This tool is used repeatedly. Extractions pulled thousands of times each day. Always hot. Always prepared for use. Never given a moment to rest.
I use this tool, and in my eyes it is the workhorse I cannot be without. Though through the scope of my superiors, this machine is simply a tool. And instead, I am the workhorse.
When I think of a workhorse, my thoughts go straight to my father. He is a man who always needs to work, be it at his actual job, working on homework, or working on his creative outlets, he can never sit still. As a child, I always found it confounding how he would never take time to just relax, but as I've grown older I think I understand somewhat why he did so. You could say it's due to a number of things, such as his upbringing affecting his work ethic, or his American values as a veteran, but personally I think he just didn't want to give himself time to think.
I've realized that the best way to not think about anything negative is to not allow myself time to do so. While my work ethic tends to be focused on my interests over my work, I still appreciate how watching my dad work tirelessly at everything he set out to do helped me become more strong willed. And while my motive is less effort related and more emotion related, Being able to do so at all is one of many things I gained from having a father like mine.