Queerskins- lets get graphic



Lets get graphic. About the emotional roller coaster a family faces when dealing with AIDS. Queer skins is an interactive novel written by Illya Szilak. It features a couple hours of audio files to listen to, and over 40,000 words in the form of journal entries. As you click you learn the story of a young homosexual doctor named Sebastian who was one of the first people to die during the U.S. AIDS crisis. It is based on a true story and written in first person, but the dialogue in the videos and the text was created by Szilak. Szilak is an physician herself who specializes in treating patients with HIV, so one can see where she gets her interest and passion for the story. The story focuses on Sebastian and five other important characters in his life. These mainly include his catholic mother and Alex his lover. The story begins with Sebastian’s mother reading his private journal and gaining insight into his life. She was unaware he was homosexual, and she is a very catholic woman.  

It is set up by character, and then by chapter. Some of the categories are not characters such as Missouri, End, and Return. As you click a character’s name audio clips with video pop up along with some journal pages you can scroll through. These are usually in a collage of five or so. After you work through them in whichever order you please you can move onto the next “chapter.” This collage method was appropriate, because it gives the reader a feeling of sorting through old files and papers, much like the mother sorting through her sons journal and uncovering his true identity. This also resembled a memorial, but instead of photographs on poster board it was stories online.  

The every day video imagery the author selected helps to humanize the doctor. It also helps to visualize the mood of the work. The vintage footage seems appropriate in telling the story. The work was created 2012 so the author had the option to use more up to date videos with better definition, but the choice to use older clips and cursive writing. the background also resembles a poor quality brown photograph, or perhaps a print from film photography where the chemistry did not completely get removed, so it turned brown with age. Her artistic choice helped to make the work more authentic even though it was not actually written during that time period. The classical music and mid-western accent also were helpful in setting the tone. The tempo of the piece is almost like wondering through a museum and reading descriptions while listening to the audio in the provided headphones. 

I think this piece is still very much relevant in today’s politics. Finding the cure for HIV/AIDS and the fight for gay rights are still making headlines in every day news. It is insightful to be able to read a piece like this and get a better picture of what was going on at the root of these issues.  

(All images labeled for reuse) 


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