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/

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.

#Queerskins: a #love story #Wins #Special #Jury #Award for #VR #Columbia #University #Digital #Storytelling Lab #Breakthrough Awards @Cloudred Studio

special jury prize

Last night we were honored to have Queerskins: a love story recognized by the Columbia University Digital Storytelling Lab. We were especially honored to be among a dozen other amazing, groundbreaking digital storytelling projects that ranged across entertainment, games, advertising, education and journalism that were recognized. And, we were awarded the Special Jury Prize for VR. Thank you everyone for all your support. Yes–we are looking for funding/in kind support for the next episode. Queerskins Ark–coming soon!

I’m Giving a Talk on #VR @G4C #Games For Change #G4C19 and #XR4C Summit June 17-19th #NYC

I’ll be talking about VR and empathy –looking at designing for different kinds of empathic states and also starting to look at soma aesthetic design.  We will be showing Queerskins:  a love story as well. Come by.

They’ve offered  20% off with code G4C19FRIENDS:  g4c19.eventbrite.com
Hope to see you there!

Revisiting #Essays on #VR

As many of you know, I wrote a series of critical essays on #e-lit with creator interviews for Huffington Post in an attempt to bring electronic literature to a more mainstream audience. Many of these were later referenced in university syllabi and books including:

Steve Tomasula: The Art and Science of New Media #Fiction

Ecogothic in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (referencing my review of Tim Morton’s Hyperobjects

The Routledge Companion to #Remix Studies     referencing my interview with Lev Manovich and review of his Software Takes Command

I then started a series on VR but got too busy to continue, nevertheless, they are worthwhile and, I hope, thought-provoking. I am revisiting them now for teaching my class at IFP.

Jessica Kantor’s Ashes: Gesture as Narrative in VR

Jess Johson’s Ixian Gate Jess Johnson and the New Language of VR

and Rachel Rossin Artist Profile: Rachel Rossin, Virtual Reality Fellow at The New Museum’s NEW INC




We want to finish #Atomic #Vacation #VR #AI #Snapchat #stories #database #game #posthuman #showusthemoney

atomic vacation postcard 1

This is such a beautiful project. We wrote a grant for LACMA art+tech. Waiting to hear. It would consist of database narrative game focusing on US cold war/atomic bomb history for VR and online, a Snapchat project, and an AI.

Postcards for Future Humans is a Snapchat “Our Story” campaign where visitors record a short “goodbye” to future humans who will never know Earth (now uninhabitable) and contribute an archival memory in the form of a photograph of a personally meaningful place or object. Available for only 24 hours, the ephemerality of these memories resonates with the possible loss of our primordial home.

Tiny Drop AI i s an artificial intelligence charged with the absurd task of visualizing the answers to challenging philosophical questions. With assistance from Google, we propose creating an AI that will be fed player multiple choice answers to “big questions” such as “what is human?,” “what is freedom?, “what is evil?”, ” what is love?”, “what is justice?.” The visual multiple choice answers are culled from the online community at large using Google Search Engine to scour the Internet for images. We will display Tiny Drop’s evolving answers to these questions in a real-time data visualization on our website. Visitors to the website may also participate by responding to these same questions online, outside of gameplay. Because the questions are as important as the answers, we propose a public workshop and discussion at LACMA that will culminate in the community deciding which questions are most important for the future of humanity.

In the meantime here is beautiful work from our collaborator Karen Llamas who is creating a comic based on the feature length screen play for Atomic Vacation. Shizuku is a little Japanese-made robot girl, the sole sentient inhabitant on a rocketship carrying a digital archive of “all human knowledge.” Her mission is to re-instantiate “the human” should Earth become uninhabitable, (of course it does). This comic is Shizuku’s remembered/imagined fantasy of her life on our home planet. The cover for first chapter reflects the page where “Ray” –Shizuku’s teacher and ? love interest takes her home to the US from Tokyo. So good. I’m just taking my name off of it… who is creating a comic book of Shizuku’s remembered/fantasized life on our home planet.

Talk at #SIGGRAPH 2018 on #VR, #story and #epistemology and #Marinetti #Bergson #embodied #cognition

Cyril and I were asked to give a talk at SIGGRAPH this year. I knew there was no way I would fit in among the mostly white, straight tech nerds, so, I didn’t try,  instead,  I gave  the talk I’d always wanted to give…and they loved it! A certain Microsoft VP said,  “I haven’t met anyone else that has put VR into such a philosophical framework or drawn from such a broad range of thinkers.”

I do a ten minute talk on story as a way of organizing information, taking the audience on a wild ride through philosophy, neuroscience, and Marinetti’s Manifesto of Tactilism… Then Cyril brings it all home to talk about why we did what we did to make #Queerskins: a love story.  Enjoy.

Here is the link.


#VR #Storytelling #Primer– I’m Teaching at IFP Made in NYC Media Center in March


I’m teaching a class on storytelling in #VR at The #IFP Made in NY Media Center in March–if you know me–you know I think differently…Come ready to think outside the box and get out of your artistic comfort zone. It’s going to be fun!

Whether you are already an established fiction or documentary writer, filmmaker, or artist or just want to start or learn more about making stories in virtual reality, this class is for you. We focus on the #art of the #story. No technical experience or experience with game engines is required.