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 first-person vignettes based on her experiences there.
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 she 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. The second episode Queerskins: ark is currently in production, it was chosen for the Venice Biennale College VR lab and is being co-produced by Intel Studios. 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, for webVR is in development. It will 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.