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 first VR experience Queerskins: a love story which combined VR, site specific installation and crowdsourced performance photography was awarded the Special Jury Prize for VR by the Columbia University Digital Storytelling Lab and a Peabody Futures of Media Award for transmedia. Their second VR experience Queerskins: ark is being co-produced by Intel Studios and is expected early 2020.

Atomic Vacation #VR #Comic #Artist’s #book #Art # Installation Coming to #IDFA Forum #Amsterdam November 22-27th

Really pleased and surprised that Atomic Vacation — the story of a little robot girl from the post-apocalyptic future that started us making in VR and which made us fall in love with 3D volumetric filmmaking (Depthkit!) and got put on hold because no $ and Queerskins, is accepted into the IDFA Forum

in the company of some AMAZING projects. We will be coming to Amsterdam to pitch, armed with an early prototype, a new artist’s book/comic book created in collaboration with Karen Llamas, and plans for an interactive installation. This hybrid doc project is a truly strange and deeply poetic narrative database game. Not only will it make you question what it means to be human, it will hopefully bring attention to our dreadful nuclear past and increasingly worrisome future. Taking inspiration from Sarah Ahmed’s assertion that alternative ways of constructing space, might end up “redirecting our attention toward different objects, those that are ‘less proximate’ or even those that deviate or are “deviant,” we create a series of heterotopias that are both wonderful and truly disturbing. We have been told it is either “batshit crazy” or “genius”. We think it is both. Come say “hi”!

Thinking Through Immersive Theater Piece based on Sebastian’s Diary from Queerskins: a novel.

truck stop

Excited to work through this in conjunction with our VR experience Queerskins: ark set to premier in 2020. What I love about VR is this ability to start playing with and exploring who we are, what we value and who we might be in the future. For me it is a kind of laboratory that uses storytelling and presence for its experiments. We are just beginning to see the potential of this.  I think of having audience members say lines from the diary in a theatrical piece as asking them to put on a “queer” skin that fits and doesn’t fit and exploring the boundaries of what they call  “self” and also what they  reject as  “other,” just as I did in writing Sebastian’s diary. 

Here is the wonderful actor Michael DeBartolo as Sebastian describing having sex with James as a teenager at a truck stop in Missouri. It’s not rainbows and unicorns, it will never be printed on a tote bag for pride month. But, it’s raw and true and beautiful. Bravo, Michael.

Teaching Narrative Design for VR at IFP Made in NYC Center in October/November

NYC friends–I am teaching again at IFP Made in NYC Media Center again–it was really well received last time. I took suggestions to heart–so this time around, I’m expand the number of sessions and am offering time to view VR prior to the class to facilitate class discussions. This is really about storytelling– VR is an evolving language, so we will be learning and thinking together–though,  I have some ideas! Bringing in embodied cognition concepts from Damasio and queer phenomenology from Sarah Ahmed. empathy 2
https://nymediacenter.com/classwork/class/…. First 5 people get a 20% discount. use code DesigningNarratives20

#Partnership with #IntelStudios for the making of #Queerskinsark

Things like this don’t happen to people like us.



It is a dream come true to announce that Queerskins: ark created by Cyril Tsiboulski and me in collaboration with talented choreographer Brandon Powers is being co-produced with by INTEL STUDIOS.

We are truly appreciative of their willingness to push artistic innovation in VR and to support challenging, complex stories like this. We shot in LA last week on the largest 3D volumetric capture stage in the world with the Intel Studios team and ourIMG_1813 NY based team many of whom have been part of QS since episode 1: producer and mother of dragons Kathleen Fox, DP Cory Allen, Actors Michael DeBartolo , Christopher Vo, and new LA friends EcoVR (sound engineering). Coming Jan 2020.

Final Rehearsal Before Queerskins Ark Volumetric Shoot

Final rehearsal prior to shoot in LA. with Choreographer Brandon Powersand dancer/actors Christopher Vo and Michael DeBartolo.

Although Queerskins: ark VR is a continuation of our Peabody Futures of Media award winning first episode, it is designed to be a stand-alone piece as well. In this episode, Mary-Helen, Sebastian’s mom finds his diary while putting away things from a box of belongings shipped back with his body to Missouri. Reading it, not without some misgivings, she allows herself to imagine him alive and in love.  It is our intent to use the special affordances of VR to create new forms of intimacy, connection and understanding through our storytelling. We do not tell you how to feel about two male lovers’ intimate dance, but whatever you decide, however you move, coming close or staying at a distance, will influence how the dance appears. It is, in essence, a kind of collaborative choreography. 

Gorgeous photos by Asya Gorovits.