Saturday, August 22, 2015

Let's watch a movie. A knitted movie.

Greg Climer is creating a short film, and he intends to use a knitted scarf as the reel for the film.

Climer, a faculty member at Parsons School of Design, does not knit by hand. In fact, he admits he is "terrible knitter", which is a surprise, given the complexity of this undertaking. Climer creates pieces on knitting machines. He learned to use this technology at a factory, where he was able to distill frames of his films into knit.

Have you ever heard something like this? Me neither.
Climer has a movie sample for the curious.

Here, Climer answers a few questions about his making process:

KS:  How and when did you learn to knit?

GC: I don't know how to knit. Ive been collaborating with a knitting factory for this project. They taught me how to set up files for the software their machinery uses but the actual running of the machines is something they have not taught me. Understandably, they don't want a layman using their incredible equipment. 

KS: What was the inspiration or motivation for the knitted project?

GC: Knitting is just pixels. Knitting machines and jacquard looms are the predecessors of computers. There is a direct evolutionary link between the loom and computer graphics so it just seems logical to knit a film. 

KS: What draws you to art and making? How did you find yourself in a creative field?

GC: I've always worked in creative fields. I studied Theater design in my undergrad and Design Technology for my MFA. I've always been happiest using my hands. Most of my career has been working with other artists or craftsmen. For this project, I started with a film clip. I broke it into individual frames. Those frames were compressed down to the four colors of yarn and the individual pixels per perl. These files were then knitted, photographed, and restored to video. 

KS: Is knitting a new skill? If so, why did you pursue this traditional women's craft?

GC: Is it traditionally women's? Knitting and weaving machines were the province of men during the industrial revolution. When the Luddites smashed the machines, they were men working under a male leader in an attempt to protect a male trade. I've never thought of knitting as gender specific. 

That said, I understand what you are getting at. I've noticed that when a craft moves from domestic to industrial, it ceases to be gender specific. Anonymous housewife vs Alexander McQueen. It's a hypocrisy in our society about what women can do and should do. Women can do crafts at home but if it expands to the realm of fine art or high fashion, its a man doing it.  There is a great book about the guilds and the evolution of sewing from men's guild to women's craft.

Traditionally women's should not be a slur. it should be a badge of honor. History is filled with amazing women whom most men would be lucky to be compared with.

KS: Can you share a bit about your making process? 

GC: I have a studio space in my home. Its a loft in Brooklyn. I have a cutting table and industrial sewing machine. Parsons is an incredible resource for making facilities. At work I have access to laser cutting, a wood shop, and industrial machinery that I would normally not be able to access. In the summer time, when the school is less busy, I will frequently go there to work.
I work for a few hours at a time during the school year. Part of my job as faculty at Parsons to have an active creative practice, so its something I make time for either at the end of my workdays or dedicating a day to it each week. During periods where it is entirely implementation, such as when i'm sewing a quilt that's completely laid out and designed, then its extremely meditative to spend a few hours sewing pieces. When it's the more creative, problem solving periods of a piece it is also invigorating but in an entirely different way. I always have multiple projects going on at once so that 

I can move between those different experiences as needed. In the summer I consider making art to be a 40 hour a week job. I'm about to workshop the script for the knitted film with some collaborators, then I am heading to Florida to film it with a high school drama class. After that, I will spend the rest of my summer editing and refining it so when I begin knitting it we do not waste any effort. During this time I'm also working on other pieces, some quilts, which will help me stay refreshed when my brain is exhausted from thinking about film making.

KS:  Is there something about fiber arts that is of particular interest to you?

GC: My career has always been in costume design and fashion design. I work as a fashion designer who teaches creative pattern cutting techniques. Our relationship with clothing is extremely personal. The way we use garments and the narratives we instill in them are incredibly strong. They are artifacts of communities and narratives. Because of my work as a fashion designer and pattern cutter, textiles are the medium i am most confident using for expression. When I'm trying to convey an idea or explore possibilities of a medium, it makes sense for me to work with textiles since they are where I am most facile. 

I am looking forward to watching how this knitted story unfolds.

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