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New Faculty Member Seeks to Perfect (and Teach) the Art of Asking Questions

New art education faculty member Kristopher Holland combines his studies in philosophy and art education in order to perfect – and teach – the art of asking questions.

Date: 10/29/2011
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Michael Everett

Arts-based research can benefit any discipline – the humanities, social sciences, professional studies and the hard sciences too.

And Kristopher Holland, new assistant professor in art education, hopes to introduce graduate students from across the university to the benefits of such research in a new winter quarter elective seminar titled “Foundations, Visualizations and Practices of Arts-Based Research.”
Kris Holland
Kristopher Holland

Holland, who combines advanced studies in both philosophy of education and art education, explains that arts-based research can be as evidence-based as the research typically associated with the sciences.

“At a very basic level, the field of arts-based research questions reality. It’s about first questioning the very questions you ask. Why are certain boundaries the boundaries? The ideal of arts-based researcher might be Galileo, who questioned so profoundly that he had to make his own novel instruments to see the world in a completely new way from most of his contemporaries,” says Holland.

Or, he adds, “On a lighter note, it’s bringing in the movie, ‘The Matrix,’ into the classroom experience. That movie could be viewed as a debate – one that extends as far back as Plato – as to what and how we trust information we receive. Our senses give us information on our universe, but they are only a gateway to a mind that can interpret and encompass things that cannot even be represented to the senses, like certain mathematical equations.”

In fact, that would be a great question for students in his new elective: Are we in “The Matrix?”

Are our senses deceiving us – in the same way that when you put a stick in a bucket of water, the stick now looks bent beneath the water line? In other words, what is knowledge? How is it constructed? How is it interpreted?
Kristopher Holland with students

And while Holland is interested in exploring philosophies and questions about how we produce and represent knowledge with his students, he also plans to use the “Foundations, Visualizations and Practices in Art-Based Research” to lead students in hands-on projects that artistically or graphically represent their UC research projects.

For instance, he says, “I could see exploring how to create graphics that represent research about global capitalism or a cellular biology project. Artistic informatics could show the impact, results and reality of a project with immediacy. It’s reimagining the visual and the traditionally non-visual.”

Not surprising, Holland’s own research interests lie in exploring critical pedagogy. He is currently co-editing a book, due out in 2012, titled “Notes From the Margins: The Specters of Critical Pedagogy.”  In addition, he just presented at the 12th annual Curriculum and Pedagogy Conference in Akron, Ohio.

In the longer term, Holland is interested in exploring the possibility of a doctoral degree in studio art. He wonders, “What would that look like? How could that be represented in a peer-reviewed paper, or could the peer-reviewed paper give way to other accepted media?”

He says that his current art education students provide promise that such advanced studies in studio art are possible: “When I came to UC, I found that the quality of the students’ writing was very strong. They routinely conduct research and rigorous analysis. As my future colleagues, these students are gifted, hard-working and ready for more challenges. I want to encourage that and encourage their growth.”

No question about it.