Illya Szilak is a writer, artist, and interactive storyteller. Shaped by her experiences as a physician, her richly collaborative artistic practice explores mortality, embodiment, identity and belief in a media inundated and increasingly virtual world. In addition to creating stories in new media, she currently practices medicine part-time at Rikers Island Correctional Facility in NYC. She is in the process of writing a book of vignettes based on her experience there which will feature drawings created in response to the stories created by a formerly incarcerated person.
Her longtime creative partner is Cyril Tsiboulski. Their first work Reconstructing Mayakovsky was selected for the second Electronic Literature Collection and was a jury pick for the Japan Media Arts Festival in Tokyo in 2010, and at Filmwinter in Stuttgart in 2011. The animation for the novel has been shown in eight film festivals around the world. Their second Queerskins was recognized by the Webby Awards in the category of NetArt in 2013 and was exhibited at the 5th Digital Storytelling Conference in Ankara, Turkey and at the Bibliotheque National in Paris. It is included in the third Electronic Literature Collection. Both works are frequently taught at the university level as important examples of experimental literature and narrative game. Szilak is the recipient of a BANFF digital narratives residency and is an Oculus Launchpad alumna. In 2018, she was chosen to participate in Ars Electronica’s Future Innovators Summit.
Cyril and Illya have received grants The Sundance Institute/Arcus Foundation and The Tribeca Film Institute /MacArthur Foundation and The Peter S. Reed Foundation to make a VR experience based on Queerskins. The first episode, of four planned, premiered with a commissioned interactive installation at The Tribeca Film Festival in April 2018. It was awarded a Peabody Futures of Media Award in transmedia and The Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab’s Special Jury Prize for VR. It went on to commissioned site specific installations around the world, including The Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The second episode Queerskins: ark was chosen for the Venice Biennale College VR lab and was co-produced by Intel Studios. It premiered at The Venice International Film Festival in 2020. A short 360 version of the dance was shown at XRCannes/Tribeca Immersive in June 2020. In lieu of the large installation that had been planned for a Tribeca Film Festival premiere. Illya and Cyril created Queerskins Home, in VR Chat, part art exhibition, part explorable story space. Currently, they are collaborating with artist photographer Tagger Yancey on a project to document a 9 month collaboration with textile designer Loise Braganza called Queer in My Own Skin, eventually these photos will be presented in a virtual exhibition in VRChat which features custom wearable avatars wearing some of the garments. This is expected in early 2021.
Another VR experience, Atomic Vacation , a post-apocalyptic narrative game about a little robot girl, the lone occupant of a rocket ship carrying an archive of all human knowledge is in development. It was chosen to be featured at the IDFA Forum in Amsterdam 11/19. In addition, Aveline an AR hybrid non-fiction experience (AR, audio play, original and historical media) about a young frontierswoman who disguises herself as a man to escape personal tragedy is in pre-production.