︎ 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