Justin Ayala and Rich Johnson, aka Aortic Valve, mix video and music during live performances.
Justin Ayala and Rich Johnson, aka Aortic Valve, mix video and music during live performances. (Daily Record/Sunday News - Kate Penn)
Band: Aortic Valve

Members: Justin Ayala and Rich Johnson (DJ Evolution)

Who we talked to: Ayala

Your genre is more of performance art, right? We have an audiovisual approach to entertainment. (Johnson) is on the turntables, and I work with video projections. We basically present soundtracks visually. We have a really good language (when we perform). There is a lot of improv involved, and we have to play off each other a lot.

Where did you get the idea for this style? I have a background in film and video. I was a mass communications major at York College. Rich has been a DJ for about 10 years. We ran into each other at a gallery . . . and came up with the idea to combine art and entertainment. Rich and I have been playing for eight years. We've played in Philly, Reading and up and down the (East) Coast.

How did you get to perform during New Year's Revolution in York? This was our third year doing a piece for the New Year's celebration. There is an art installation portion of the show as well. Weapons on Mass Construction (another performance group from the area) helped us this year. There is a keyboard player, sculptor and projectionist who uses traditional ways to reflect light using crystals.

Did the performance have a theme? We were thinking about the concept of New Year's and came up with an idea to do a soundtrack that was a chronology. It's called "Set in Motion." We started with Motown . . . and then moved from reggae to classic rock to hip-hop to modern rock.


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I researched the Civil Rights movement . . . and tried to think about what inspired the artists (at that time) and what drove the trends in music. I really got to do my homework. Then, I traced hip-hop back to its roots in Jamaica. I wanted to show how it influenced pop culture with clothing and breakdancing. People don't always realize what an impact (music) can have.

What was the theme of your 2007 performance? It was called "Transcendence." We created an environment where people could explore the passage of time. We were presenting the transcendence of time and space.

How does the video aspect of the show work? I've been pulling news (clips) and events from pop culture. I also shoot my own footage. It's kind of like being a collage artist. I always have a video camera in my car. My eyes are always open for bits and pieces from TV and commercials to connect to a concept and with YouTube, you can pretty much type anything in and get ideas.

The show is about three hours. Are you completely drained afterward? So much work goes into (the show) beforehand. (Rick and I) play even longer when we play the club scene.

What do you hope people walked away from performances with? We really want to get people thinking about how our lives are living cinema from the sights and sounds that are all around us. If people hear a song, or see a news event, they might remember exactly where they were at that moment.

Do you plan to work with Weapons of Mass Construction again? We admire each other's work. This experiment has been amazing. We did a dry practice about two weeks ago, after we've all been practicing for two months. We generated a lot of other ideas and want to do more. We're hoping our performance opens the gates for other artists to come forward.

- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF