Melissa Ulto, aka VJ Miixxy, is a New York-based VJ, as well as videographer, editor, filmmaker, writer, and painter. She has performed at clubs and concerts, on Broadway, and at the Museum of Modern Art. Her performances combine both abstract and representational imagery. Although she has created over a thousand video clips, which she stores on a hard drive for mixing during shows, live cameras are also an important component of her performances. As she explains: […] mixing in live camera images makes the performances truly interactive. I’ll point cameras at the performers onstage, or at the crowd. Everyone loves that—the performers, the crowd, and most importantly (professionally speaking) the club owner […] you create a live symphony of images that purely lives in the moment—unless you record it.
But Ulto is also known for turning the camera on herself and putting her own image into the mix. Often Ulto appears costumed and posing as one of a number of female sex-symbol stereotypes. The effect is similar to that of artist Cindy Sherman’s self-portraits. (Ulto credits both Sherman and Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi as progenitors.) Noting that a number of female artists put themselves into their work, Ulto explains: By using your own image, you take on your own objectification, create your own perspective as an artist and as a woman.
Like many VJs, Ulto came to performance from film and video making, and had to make the somewhat radical shift to live performance. She compares VJing both to playing jazz music and to editing: With live performance, it’s like editing a fast samba or complicated waltz, without the constraints of exactness. It’s improv, it’s visual jazz, and it’s addictively fun.
Examples of Ulto’s work can be seen in her showreel Peep Delish: VJ Miixxy—a Selection of Works. The reel features both three-dimensional abstract animation and live action video; often the two are composited together. The live action subjects range from dancers and lips to flames and cityscapes. Kaleidoscopic patterns are a recurring theme for Ulto, as they are for many VJs. Ulto often uses formal visual relationships to transition between clips; for example, an abstract clip full of swirls and wrinkles dissolves into a dancer’s textured skirt. Ulto frequently makes use of a technique common in both VJ and live cinema performances: repeated looping of a short video clip that depicts a brief movement, usually of a person. The visual impression created by the looping is similar to the effect of verbal repetition in hip-hop; the repetition mocks or draws attention to the artificiality of the scene. This effect is particularly evident in Ulto’s looping of the footage in which she appears, drawing attention to her character as a stereotypical sex object.
The documentation of live performance presents a difficulty for all visual performers, and it is especially challenging in the case of a VJ’s demo reel. Excerpts must be edited from a variety of performances, and a single piece of music is typically used as accompaniment for the entire reel. So there is a limit to how much of the live experience of visual improvisation and audiovisual integration can be communicated in a demo reel. Still, one gets the sense in the mixing and transitions, in the fluidity and in the rough spots that sometimes appear, that what one is watching has been improvised by a live performer. Ulto describes the culture shock that filmmakers often experience when confronted with live performance:
I’ve had friends who are video and film editors come and see me work, and they’re amazed that it’s all live. It’s a completely foreign world to them, even a bit frightening. They’re accustomed to spending an hour getting just the right cut, so they wondered, “What about your mistakes?” But the whole point is that there are no mistakes […] It’s free-form and fluid, which is more natural for me than doing film work. A friend once said that I’m in my natural state, my habitat, when I’m in the VJ booth mixing. 
 Paul Spinrad, The VJ Book: Inspirations and Practical Advice for Live Visuals Performance (Port Townsend: Feral House, 2005), 76.
 Paul Spinrad, The VJ Book, 77.
 Vidvox, “Featured Artists—Melissa Ulto (VJ Miixxy),” Vidvox website, http://www.vidvox.com/artist-miixxy.php.
 Spinrad, The VJ Book, 75–76.