Illya Szilak is a writer, artist, director and creative producer for interactive and transmedia stories. Shaped by her experiences as a physician, her richly collaborative artistic practice explores mortality, liveness, identity and belief in a media inundated and increasingly virtual world. In addition to creating stories in new media, she practices medicine part-time at Rikers Island Correctional Facility in NYC. Her longtime creative partner is Cyril Tsiboulski. Together they create multimedia, cross-disciplinary projects that have included writing, dance, photography, live performance, film, physical and virtual installation, and textiles. They began creating interactive on-line digital narratives utilizing mostly open source code and Creative Commons media in 2008 with the publication of Reconstructing Mayakovsky and Queerskins, a novel (2013). Both are included in The Electronic Literature Collection and have been taught numerous times at the undergraduate and graduate level as important works of electronic literature. In 2018, they premiered their first VR experience Queerskins: a love story in site-specific interactive physical installations around the world including The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. For this, they were awarded a Peabody Futures of Media Prize as well as the Columbia University Digital Storytelling Lab’s Special Jury Prize for VR. Their second VR experience Queerskins: ARK was chosen for development at the Venice Biennale College VR lab and was co-produced by Intel Studios. It premiered at The Venice International Film Festival in 2020 in an interactive story space Queerskins Home on VRChat. In 2021, they premiered In My Own Skin, a virtual exhibition of photography in VRChat, that featured wearable avatars at CPH:DOX. This project exploring identity was done in collaboration with artist photographer Tagger Yancey and textile designer and artist Loise Braganza. In 2021, they were also commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to work with choreographer /theater artist Raja Feather Kelly to help create his first VR performance work. Currently, they are in production on FLY ANGEL SOUL, a 2D experimental short film that will be shot entirely in VR as well as a virtual mis-en-scene that will be used as a performance tool to shoot variations live, in real-time before an audience with guest cinematographer/filmmakers.
Cyril and Illya have received grants from The Jerome Foundation, The Sundance Institute/Arcus Foundation and The Tribeca Film Institute /MacArthur Foundation and The Peter S. Reed Foundation.