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/

Month-long Solo Exhibition at TIFF Lightbox Gallery

Photo Jun 01, 3 46 41 PMConfronted with a huge white box of a space that could serve as a cenotaph, we had to rethink how to create an interactive installation that would continue our themes of love, loss, memory and imagination. Our plan was to attempt to domesticate the monumental (and fail) and to elevate the every-day (the photos of prior participants) by dramatically lighting them on the white expanse of wall. Adopting the moving box “plinth” we’d used in the middle room at Tribeca, we replicated it across the space to create a cohesive experience. In addition, we used the excess of space to offer the visitor time for contemplation as they moved from one photo to another or one arrangement of objects to another. The result is something that feels human-scale, austere, and memorial.

VR Installation at TIFF Lightbox Building Gallery for Pride Month in Toronto

Inside Out Festival is partnering for the first time with The Toronto International Film Festival to bring Queerskins: a love a story for a month long installation in the beautiful gallery at the Lightbox building. This is our first time in a proper gallery space as opposed to film festival venue and we are so thrilled to have this opportunity. The installation will feature photographs  by Tagger Yancey IV of Tribeca participants (see prior post) and also an interactive, immersive installation in which we attempt and fail (a little) to domesticate the gallery space.  QueerskinsTribeca04_TaggerYanceyIV_6419QueerskinsTribeca04_TaggerYanceyIV_6396QueerskinsTribeca04_TaggerYanceyIV_6359QueerskinsTribeca03_TaggerYanceyIV_6208QueerskinsTribeca02_TaggerYanceyIV_5868QueerskinsTribeca01_TaggerYanceyIV_5811QueerskinsTribeca01_TaggerYanceyIV_5787QueerskinsTribeca01_TaggerYanceyIV_5636

Photographs Created at Tribeca Film Festival Featured at Seattle International Film Festival


Queerskins is a crowd-sourced photography project inspired by the interactive narrative and virtual reality experience, Queerskins: a love story (www.queerskins.com). In the VR experience, participants construct the semi-fictional character of Sebastian, a young gay physician from a rural Catholic Missouri family who dies of AIDS in 1990, by interacting with a box of his belongings, photographs and a diary. Commissioned by The Tribeca Film Festival, where the work premiered, we created an immersive interactive installation, a recreation of Sebastian’s childhood attic bedroom, transformed by imagination and memory. We asked visitors to consider their own stories of love and loss, and, as they went through the installation, to find an object that spoke to this. Tagger Yancey then photographed them in communion with the objects and invited them to share, in writing, the object’s personal significance. These are the photographs and stories which you will find in this book.

We did not anticipate how deeply and personally the act of choosing and object and being photographed would affect people. By creating a temporary shared, but solitary experience in which shame, the loss of love and acceptance, and transcendence intermingle and are made visible, Queerskins created a safe space for emotional contemplation. We are still trying to understand how this combination of the virtual and the real generated such an open and intense exchange with strangers. We are grateful and honored that our art has been a catalyst for this.



Installation Photos Tribeca Film Festival

The installation at Tribeca recreates the childhood attic bedroom of Sebastian, the young gay physician from a rural Catholic Missouri family who dies of AIDS in 1990, who is the main and missing character in Queerskins: a love story. It came to me in a period of a few days and tens of hours online looking through Home Depot and Lowes , Amazon, Etsy (where the handmade purple taffeta rose bridal runner came from for the Drag Hallway) and, of course, eBay.  We could not have done this without Cory Allen, our DP from the Queerskins shoot, who did the theatrical lighting for this including creating fake windows in the attic.

The installation is historically accurate and meticulously curated which gives it such realism that many people truly thought Sebastian was real. He is to me. I wrote 40,000 words of his diary basing him on my own experiences with HIV patients and my own research and also my own biography.


Soft Launch of “if I could have anyone”

We did a soft launch at my apartment this weekend. It was a magical moving experience. When you crowdsource a project, it finds its own energy. I thought this would be about hope and love and faith in the future, but most of the objects donated have to do with   loss of love, youth, dreams. The evening was both a kind of collective mourning, not heavy, the weight of a sigh. But, I realize that renewal requires that recognition of loss to make a space for something else. So it was melancholy, but not sad, and also joyous and slightly electric. It was unexpectedly profound and I thank everyone for donating. If you’s like to participate, send your small meaningful object with a short description of its significance, history or imagined future history to PO Box 1279, NY NY 10113. Include your name and address (we will not reveal it) and you will get a photo of your object in communion with a “lover.”  Note: objects will not be returned. Follow on Instagram @gameoflovex3 Photos by Tagger Yancey.