About Illya Szilak

Illya Szilak is a transmedia writer/artist, independent scholar, and curator. She and her long time collaborator Cyril Tsiboulski (Cloudred Studio) were recently awarded a grant from Tribeca Film Institute/MacArthur Foundation to create a VR experience inspired by their online narrative installation Queerskins. Reconstructing Mayakovsky www.reconstructingmayakovsky.com was included in the second Electronic Literature Collection and was a jury pick for The Japan Media Arts Festival 2010. The animation done in collaboration with Pelin Kirca has been shown in eight film festivals around the world. Her second multimedia novel Queerskins www.queerskins.com was recognized by the Webby's in the category of NetArt in 2013 and was exhibited at the 5th International Digital Storytelling Conference in Ankara and at the Bibliotheque National in Paris. It was recently featured as part of a group show Queertech.io at three LGBTQ festivals in Australia. She and VR artist Oscar Raby (VRTOV Studio) received a grant from the Sundance Institute/Arcus Foundation to make a VR experience inspired by Queerskins. She is an Oculus Launchpad Fellow. Her longtime collaborator is interactive designer Cyril Tsiboulski at Cloudred Studio (NYC). Their current project is Atomic Vacation a narrative game for VR. www.atomicvacation.com and devblog at www. https://www.facebook.com/atomicvacation/ She blogs on Electronic Literature and the Arts for the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/illya-szilak/

Queerskins: a love story Featured in SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques) Blog–why we are NOT trying to make VR that is fun for the whole family…

Queerskins_1 (3)SIGGRAPH: Angela Watercutter recently wrote in WIRED that “programmers are looking to make interactive experiences fun for the whole family,” in a story on VR at film festivals. In developing future VR chapters for Queerskins: A Love Story” is this something you are taking into account?

Cyril Tsiboulski: We are driven to tell emotional, complex stories that explore the potential of new technologies. We think that good art should make people uncomfortable because that is one way we can test our boundaries to understand what we really care about. In “Queerskins: A Love Story,”we create a world which offers visitors the opportunity to connect with an urgent social message in a non-didactic, emotionally powerful way. Through story and technology, the experience puts visitors in the position of living through the intimate, interior worlds of others. It is our hope that this will lead to an emotional engagement with the characters and themes, and, ultimately, an empathy for the characters’ personal experiences and, by extension, for “real” persons who grapple with love, illness, and loss. Is it “fun for the whole family?” That’s a decision and choice best left to the visitor, not the artist.

read more here

Full Frontal on Canal: Queerskins : a love story Immersive Installation for PRIDE Month

Stop by and say hi, see the closet no one wants to leave, and take fabulous Polaroid selfies with installation objects.

Queerskins: a love story (www.queerskins.com), the Peabody Futures of Media Award winning VR drama, created by Illya Szilak and Cyril Tsiboulski, will be shown in a site specific installation at 325 Canal Street in New York City, June 26th – June 30th, 2019, in celebration of Pride Month.

In this haptic experience for Oculus Rift with Touch, visitors are seated in the back seat of a photorealistic vintage 1986 Cadillac behind two grieving parents, Ed and Mary-Helen, as they take a magic-realist journey down a country road in rural Missouri. Visitors get to know Sebastian, the son they have lost to AIDS, through the drama unfolding in intimate proximity in the front seat as well as by interacting with artifacts from his life: a collection of personal belongings, photographs, and a diary they find in a box on the seat next to them.

According to writer/director, Illya Szilak, a practicing physician who works at Rikers Island Correctional Facility, it was important to design Queerskins in a way that prevented it from being read and, perhaps, dismissed as a “gay” or an “AIDS” story. “Although Sebastian’s story is unique, and he is a gay man, the experience of rejection, love and loss is universal. Importantly, we do not ask you to pretend to be anyone you are not. We designed Queerskins so that you can take all your personal history and biases into the experience. Your relationship to the objects, e.g. a Christian cross, a Tom of Finland pictorial, etc. determines how you will reconstruct the man who has died.”

The virtual reality experience, which premiered at The Tribeca Film Festival in 2018,  is anchored in a site-specific physical, interactive, immersive installation populated with historically accurate, crowd-sourced, and curated objects. The work also includes performance photography. Visitors to the installation are asked to find an object that resonates with their own story of love and loss and be anonymously photographed with it. A selection of photographic portraits of prior participants by Julienne Schaer and Tagger Yancey IV will be on display in the Canal Street installation.

Cyril Tsiboulski, creative and technical director and co-founder of Cloudred, an interactive design studio, explains the importance of visitor participation: “We created the experience and the installation to actively engage visitor imagination because we know that the discrimination that LGBTQ+ people experience can’t be wiped away by the magic of VR. Being able to share this interactive story along with the immersive installation during Pride is especially meaningful to me. As a gay man, I’m all too familiar with the shaming, prejudice and intolerance that LGBTQ+ people experience every day. Through this work, however, I truly hope that our audience can find a connection with those often labeled as ‘other.’”
Queerskins: a love story and several other art exhibitions celebrating Pride Month are made possible through a collaboration with Wallplay, the experiential arts and innovation network that repurposes empty spaces. ON CANAL is a district for pop-ups where brands, artists and startups can test out new ideas and engage with the public. ON CANAL is co-curated by Vibes Studios.

 

325 Canal Street NYC; Exhibition Hours: Wednesday, June 26–Sunday, June 30th, 12–7pm, Thursdays until 9pm.

#Atomic Vacation: Script for Actress Tomi Heady #notes on #hysteria #eotwawki

hysteriaTomi table still

This is one scene I sent actress Tomi Heady for our Depthkit 3D volumetric shoot for the VR narrative game Atomic Vacation. After this, I think doing Beckett will not be a problem for her. Rae is the imagined/remembered love interest and teacher of Shizuku, a little robot girl from the near post-apocalyptic future. The lone inhabitant of a rocket ship carrying an archive of “all human knowledge.” Her mission is to “re-instantiate” the human if the Earth becomes uninhabitable.

______________________________________________________-
Purpose: To explore tension between human and machine, desire and memory, real and virtual.

Rae is the manifestation of the future human being born.
Rae is an experiment.

She is both doll like —dress (relating to cosplay) almost cartoonish. She inhabits an uncanny space that is vaguely domestic and feminine and childlike.

She is the hysterical woman. She is improper. She is obscene. Her “I” is too big for her (Mayakovsky) body and what is invisible, unseen, even subconscious, is manifested upon her body in the form of repeated gesture.

Her words have become enervated, mere place holders for things that were real or lived at one time, but now everything is information. However, her words transmit information through paralinguistic qualities (pacing of speech, tone, loudness which communicate not via content, but which the recipient perceives and takes in viscerally.)

In each scene one or two emotions will drive you. These are the machines which generate gesture and influence way you speak (tone, rapidity, emphasis). They come from inside and are something that you are silently fighting with. These emotions are like spirits which possess you, you are attempting to be reasonable, logical but these keep spurting out. Think about slowing down or speeding up a word or phrase, spitting out a phrase or nearly singing it– however it fits the emotion. It does not have to make sense with the script, in fact, it can play against the words of the script, the main thing is that it has to be felt and expressed upon the body.

See contrast between emotion and proper dress in photo documenting “hysteria” I also like the slow emergence of emotion.

SCENE 1 BEACH: Dry sand, wet sand. Rae stands. Dress barefoot bare hands. WIND!!!
sound of the shore/seagulls

Rae wears the dress, she is barefoot and barehanded. Her hair is loose and being blown by a “wind” off the ocean.

EMOTION—
elegiac
Far away
alone
recrimination mixed with hint of regret. Loss of the world. Stupidity of humans. Rae is removed from the disaster in a way, she is the future human, she persists, she will live on as code, but internally, sadness or memory pulls her — causing gestures and emotion to manifest.

GESTURE—
Formation/Destruction Balls of sand are pre-made on ground. Rae is standing, she picks up one, compresses in her hands, then crushes it, and repeats or , thrusts down to implode?
Formation/Destruction
Fury comes out differentially in act of destruction
World made and remade, made and remade.

Facing into self, reading self, gesture that manifest and interrupts repeat/almost mechanical process of making.

Posture: standing then sitting

Balls of sand are lined up like cannonballs or worlds which you pick up one by one, play with and destroy.

Picking up one ball at a time and holding them. Water.
Light.
Ground.
Sky.

Draw in ground with toe.
Home is where humans start from.
As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living.

Humans are at a certain end. We have met a certain end. (hysterical- body clenches then relaxes. She sits, recomposing herself—maybe here, throws down the last cannonball?)

Rae sits, plays with sand letting it fall through fingers, stares at hand in wonder.
For a computing machine, a hand is no different from a mind (touching own hand as if not her own)
and I, to her, am no more or less than ocean.
A piece of information. A position banked in her memory.

Perhaps you, too, remember.
Even without a body, this Earth,
her terrain and horizon are
still carried in your code.
The Earth asks for nothing, except that we recall her.
She is what made us

(Rae draws a picture the sand with hand or awkwardly with toe?)

Human.(Repeat)
The Earth asks for nothing, except that you recall her.
She, is, in the end, what has programmed you to be.
Erases the word.

As it was in the beginning, even here, even now
the memory of these places
Demarcate the spaces of your perception.,
a home where a thought of a self may dwell and grow.

Draws a stick figure holding a square box with a handle.
I see us adding this archival image to background in Unity. Harold Agnew–plutonium core.

Harold_Agnew_plutonium_core_1

Here is a self, selves have names. This man has a name.
This man’s name is Harold.
If there was no Earth, would there could be no Harold.
How could he not have understood that?
And, you. too
Can you not see that this little box
that he holds in his hand like he’s holding his lunch
Will change the course of history?

draws a nuclear bomb

The plutonium core weighed 6.2 kg or about 14 lb,
the pit is 9 cm (4 inches) across. And only about one fifth of it, a bit over 1 kg (2 pounds) undergoes a fission reaction. And only a gram (1/30th of an ounce) of that gets converted into explosive energy equal to 21,000 tons of TNT.
(defeated)

She draws a smile

Harold is smiling. Why is he smiling?
He is smiling at an idea. He is smiling at the efficiency,

She destroys it violently.
(angrily)

To change the future, you must picture a different version of the past.

She redraws.

Does Harold eat a sandwich on the beach?
Is it peanut butter? Is it turkey?
Does he watch the waves, imagining
his sweetheart at home, her body
nearly naked in the pool?

The disappearance of wars and history
is the disappearance of Man properly so called.

(bitterly) In the end, what we believed turned out to be worth

opens empty hands like a Pieta, stares intently at camera.
Nothing.

Sheffield DocFest Alternate Realities Talent Market

DocFest_2019_Laurels_AR_Talent_Market_Pitched_Orange_CMYK

Cyril Tsiboulski and I will be attending the talent market at Sheffield DocFest.  We would love to find time to meet with you about funding/exhibition/installation of these projects. We see ourselves as uniquely situated between art and sophisticated entertainment. As museums become more interested in experiences ,  this line has become increasingly blurred.

We bring three projects in various stages of production and are also open to commissions and consultations on projects.  Let us know if you will be there and if you want to meet!

Aveline (pre-production): a hybrid documentary MR work that combines archival historical ephemera and first-person storytelling by semi-fictional characters shot with 3D volumetric video to tell the story of two women during the Fraser Gold Rush in Canada who fall in love. This work harnesses the power of AR to remap and colonize existing space to explore contemporarily relevant issues of national borders, gender, feminism, race, and sexuality in a historical context.

 Queerskins: ark ( production–anticipated VR premiere January 2020 -funded for creation of VR experience, we are looking for funding for installation and performance and also for exhibition spaces. The second episode of a tetralogy that combines VR, installation and performance. Queerskins Ark offers visitors the opportunity to consider what is lost and gained when human touch and interaction become virtual. A combination of virtual reality (with interactive dance), interactive installation, immersive theater and dancer performance, it tells the story of Sebastian, a gay man estranged from his rural Catholic Missouri family who dies of AIDS in 1990. In it, his mother finds a way to transcend her grief and her self through reading his diary and through her own imagination. The production costs of this project are now fully funded by a major tech company.

Atomic Vacation (in production–proof of concept and archival research completed–looking for funding and exhibition/installation potential)
a social trans-media hybrid non-fiction project about the end of the world as we have known it. It offers participants opportunities to actively and creatively consider what it means to be human in an increasingly virtual and computer-mediated world. The first element is a post-apocalyptic narrative game for virtual reality and online play that utilizes AI affordances of Unity. Through game play, participants explore U.S Cold War and Atomic history as they piece together the story of Shizuku, a robot girl from the near future, the sole inhabitant of a rocket ship carrying an impossible archive of “all human knowledge.”

 

Queerskins: a love story wins a # Peabody Future of Media Award for Transmedia!

queerskins poster jpg

Cyril Tsiboulski and I are so pleased and a little flabbergasted to announce that Queerskins: a love story has won a Peabody Future of Media Award for transmedia. They have never given this award in this category before.

Bravo to the incredible team! Kathleen Fox, Cory Allen, Laura Cunningham, Supreet Mahanti, Richard Hammer, our actors Hadley Boyd, Drew Moore, Michael DeBartolo, our post production angels: Juan Salvo, Kevin Bolen and Skywalker Sound crew, Jillian Morrow, Kyle Kukshtel, Alexander Porter, James George and Scatter Studio makers of Depthkit, and Zeina Abi Assy and Tribeca Film Institute/MacArthur Foundation and Sundance Institute/Arcus Foundation for believing in this story, and Loren Loren Austin Hammonds and Ingrid Kopp for giving us the chance create our first and most fabulous installation and performance photography, with Julienne Schaer and Tagger Yancey IV.

Revisiting #Atomic Vacation a #VR #epistemological #game and #installation #art about #teotwawki #MAGA #DPRK #nukes

atomic still 2what you choose to see and not to see, what you keep and what you discard–these make all the difference–Shizuku, robot girl from the future (still –in-headset view Atomic Vacation)

Seven years ago, I went to North Korea for the 100th anniversary of Kim il Sung’s birth. I did it in service of Atomic Vacation –a VR game currently in production. It was truly a one of a kind trip. I wrote a series of travel essays about it for Huffington Post. Here is the first. This was solidly in Obama years and the thought of nuclear war was far away. Even then, I recognized a resonance between North Korea’s relation to national mythologies and the U.S. Now, rereading this in Trump-time, I am a little shocked by how familiar this all sounds. Inspired by David Riesman’s incredible Cold War paper “The Nylon War”  I devoted half my small suitcase to Ghirardelli chocolate bars and Revlon red lipstick, which I gave away to people I met. I could have been arrested, but amazingly wasn’t. I came away with a sincere hope that someday Korea can be reunited, on its own terms, and 100 or so elegiac Fuji Instamatic photos of nowhere spaces in the DPRK–a vestibule at a subway station, an empty playground at a park. They will eventually become part of an installation that will house the VR–a souvenir shop at the end of the world –where every day is a “going out of business!” sale.