Greg Climer (Panelist)

Greg Climer
Assistant Professor
Parsons School of Design

10:30 am to 11:30 am
Beyond the Classroom: How do we teach VR?
VR/AR/MR in an arts and humanities design school and university


Greg Climer’s work focuses on how traditional crafts can be transformed by new technologies in a way that maintains the warmth and value of the handmade.  With a history as a fashion designer and fashion design educator, his work involves textiles as the primary medium. The work is designed to be viewed both on screen and in the real world. By creating objects that come into focus on the screen and using a combination of traditional and new techniques, he is exploring perception on multiple levels.

His work is interested in the union between seemingly disparate parts of our everyday lives. Textiles and technology are often assumed to only merge in very sci-fi, high concept ways. Climer is interested in how they can converge while maintaining the warmth and comfort we often associate with well-worn garments and beloved blankets.

He is an assistant professor of fashion design as well as associate director of first year education at Parson School of Design. In 2016 Climer was the Artist In Residence at the Museum of Arts and Design, where he quilted an animated film. In 2015, Hyper Allergic Magazine listed him as an “artist to watch” when he debuted the knitted film at Fred Frelinghuysen Presents.

Reflective Essay :

What kinds of practices do educators and practitioners need to foster (facilitate) critical engagement with immersive media, particularly in relation to various modes of learning?

Opening fashion design up to the virtual space and immersive media requires a certain amount of risk taking and curiosity. Fashion Photography can easily enter into the immersive environment and we will probably see some of the leaders in both technology and fashion photography exploring this now that the tools are more widely available. But what is more confusing and interesting is to think how can fashion design exist in immersive media technology.  Traditionally, Fashion has been a tangible, physical form of design. Clothing the body is, logically, a physical act. Moving fashion into the virtual space opens up questions that challenge what fashion is, or can be. As educators working with the next generation, it falls on us to lay the groundwork for them to confront this challenge.

Questions of evolving perceptions and technologies are not new questions, just new to fashion design. Every step forward in technology has challenged the artisans of the times, who have incorporated them and advanced the possibilities in their field. How will photography impact painting? How will film impact photography? We have seen technologies repeatedly unlock unexpected potential in art and design, inviting designers and artists to ask new questions and generate new forms. We can continue down this path of technology influencing design until we reach “how can fashion exist when there is no body to clothe,’ which is a logical conclusion of immersive media pairing with fashion design.

The short answer is “I don’t know.” Designers are trying out ideas and experimenting in this space and as educators, our role is to facilitate these explorations. Fashion is an umbrella term used to explain a multitude of jobs and forms of expressions. Some are craft-based, while others are business logistics and system design. Fashion is both the practical suits worn to generate respectability in the boardroom and also the ephemeral experience of witnessing an Alexander McQueen runway show. Boundaries are blurry with Fashion. Its hard to pin down exactly what is and is not fashion. To quote Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it”.

As educators, we need to be open to this fuzzy permeable border, encourage crossing over it and testing its limits.

Foster curiosity.
Curiosity is the source of all learning. Curiosity requires care and attention or we lose it. In higher education its easy to forget to be curious. Education is a costly investment and the more obvious return on investment of the safe pathway is often where faculty will focus. Their own experiences in a clearly defined industry are known quantities and they want to give the students this safe path forward.

Innovation comes from new ideas and new ideas are born when unexpected ideas collide into one another. Focus too much on our area of expertise and we stop bringing in the outside influences. Without new ideas entering into the conversation, students will just repeat the past.

What are some practical ideas for building a continued sense of curiosity? Anything which encourages the addition of unexpected inputs. Some ideas which myself and my colleagues have used to foster curiosity:

  • A weekly show-n-tell. Every student is assigned a day when they teach the class about whatever they are interested in that is not the class topic.
  • Subscribe to the Sunday NY Times and read all of it.
  • Create a class mailing list, discussion group, tumblr, or blog as a place to collect non-class related items of interest
  • Bring in guest critics or speakers who do not work in the area of study. Film-makers are incredible fashion critics!
  • Curate a selection of podcasts, assign one a week.
  • Create a semester long scavenger hunt. Items can include “a picture of yourself in the bathroom of a ‘highbrow’ arts event” and “evidence you visited a subway station no one else in class visited this semester”.

The common theme in all of these ideas is they are systematic ways to introduce chaos into the class. By opening the door to the unexpected and inviting it in, each student will begin building bridges between the topic of study and the outside influence that catches their imagination.

Foster collaboration.
Building off the importance of curiosity as a way of introducing disparate ideas or creating unexpected bridges, collaboration is a way to exponentially increase this bridging effect. Collaborating across disciplines is the quickest way to bring fashion into the VR space. The skills required to successfully work in either discipline alone are extensive. More often than not, the more skills are honed, the quicker we are to assume possible and not possible. Collaborators with disparate skills will frequently challenge those assumptions and ask for the seemingly impossible. The importance of collaboration goes beyond skill-sharing. Collaborators unlock potential in ourselves by revealing our own biases and assumptions and by shining lights on areas we have stopped exploring.

Encouraging curiosity and collaboration in the classroom is often difficult for educators. It challenges our role. An educator who invites collaboration and curiosity into the room has to let go of the notion that we are ‘givers of knowledge’ and reframe our role as ‘facilitators of learning’.  Fashion is an industry which thrives on the authority. Knowing what is in and what is out, who is hot, and who is washed up. Letting go of these outdated notions of authority and pushing for classroom where there is room for multiple industries is how we will see our students be the ones who answer the question “how can fashion exist when there is no body to clothe?”