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/

Invited to Participate in Ars Electronica Future Innovators Summit

I made a crazy video of myself talking about mistakes and how it relates to being human. I did it, post-Rikers, at 3am, on my phone. I showed my manifesto from Reconstructing Mayakovsky and talked about the opacity of manifesto mayakovskyRoentgen’s wife’s wedding ring (above) then had Oppenheimer and Shizuku, my little robot girl from Atomic Vacation offer audio commentary. It was really fractured and poetic and, yes, odd. I just got word that they are flying me out to Ars Electronica for the Future Innovators Summit. I’m a little flabbergasted.

Peter Reed Foundation Supports Queerskins ark–for VR and Installation

QueerskinsTribeca04_TaggerYanceyIV_6414We are so pleased to announce that we got our first grant to support production of Queerskins ark –the second of 4 experiences for VR. Thank you, Peter Reed Foundation. Peter Reed was a filmmaker, dancer, and choreographer who, like so many artists, lost his life to AIDS. We hope to honor his memory with our work.

This episode combines narrative 3D volumetric filmmaking and interactive dance. As with Queerskins: a love story–we will create an experience in which the participant’s body is implicated in the storytelling. We think embodied cognition allows us access to universal human experiences in ways that we have yet to fully understand. Sebastian’s story is specific, but the experience of love, sexual desire, and fear of rejection/loss are part of being alive. Yes, we are looking for funders and/or in-kind donors–contact me with ideas! We know that most VR platforms are controversy and risk averse (and yes, two men dancing together, unfortunately, counts as controversial..and we are indie artists) so we are casting a wide net!


Microchoreography/Gesture Notes on Dancefilm for Queerskins: ark

Sherril Dodds: “Through close range filming, facial expressions and subtle gestures can become part of the dance and so the dancing body shifts from being a general body to one that is detailed and specific. ”

Loie Fuller Le Dans des Mans–total darkness except hands illuminated.

Balazs: “more space and time in the film was taken up by the inner drama…almost exclusively by close-ups” outer movement /inner drama


Disconnect between rhythm of music and body (slowed down) and words.


Body weight added to “light” filmic body via impact on sand and by close-up sound. Think about using sand and sound to create “weight” in the dance, invoke the weight of bodies.


Hand held shakiness and movement with body rather than static adds an extra rhythm which causes body to appear as more abstract–an additional rhythm. This is then broken by body sped up a little repeatedly falling in small space. Repetition and weight becomes an almost unbearable tension.


As viewer gets closer hears breathing and body sounds. Abstraction –can distance speed up the dance?????? This is a really amazing idea to connect time and space……See use of dissolves.


Hubert Godard describes a “plastic corporeal memory” in humans that is the “modelling of the tissues that generate the tensional organisation of our bodies” The process involves the tonic muscles which specialize in gravitational responses” and the contain our bodies “most ancient memories” regarding Tricia Brown’s works.

Micro-choreographies consist of TENDENCIES toward movement that never actualize as a crossing from position A to position B. but constitute an expressive force as acentered resonations. What dancefilms like Hands, Element discover are micro-movements on the surface of –as well as the flows of energy through–the body in close-up..

Look at abstraction in Man Ray Emak Bakia–we read these as mechanical because abstract or because non gestural, how can we use abstract surfaces as “faces”?

Visitor as camera –time and space linked. Farther away–faster? Closer –slower (the close-up of film. Shadows of performers/transluscent double as in Many Ray’s film?

A moment of the face looking at you is powerful recognition!

What effects can we get just with Depthkit alone? eg. light reflections? Dancing through C02?

Sand imprint of feet and bodies.

Moving camera or still–rhythm of visitor or both?

Repetition gives “weight” to actions.

Consider marking “privelaged spaces” e. g. transparency changes

consider using dancers in water –water to sand transition? ends with heavy body on sand?

Vivarium bake in light effects (after Loie Fuller)


light play vivarium.png


Narrative and Dance bodies as expressive vehicles

“negotiating the space between subject and film as dance negotiates a partner.”

***Can the visitors’ positioning alter the dance?  The dance becomes “a sensory surface”  that responds and articulates through motion?

Choreographer/Dancer Trevor Patrick: “The camera attempts to see that experience which is recorded in the tissues of the body, in ways which can be apprehended by an audience…The camera contemplates the action of breath, the subtle suggestion of movement under fabric, over skin, the details of gesture, posture and facial expression. Each of these elements offers the viewer a point of entry into the experience of the body. detail may be seen at the level of imagining.”


See You at SIGGRAPH 2018



We are going to SIGGRAPH 2018 –we will be talking about our approach to storytelling in VR and why we decided to combine 360 video, photogrammetry and 3D modeling, Depthkit volumetric video live action capture, and 3D scanned vintage objects to create Queerskins. Stop by and say hello.

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.