Launching this Wednesday is a new exhibition by Juno Calypso that presents her latest body of work, What To Do With a Million Years. Known for her iconic photographic self-portraits in The Honeymoon Suite, this new series is based on her discovery of a surreal and unique location – an underground house in Nevada, USA.
Built by Avon cosmetics founder Gerry Anderson in the 1960s, with the advent of the Cold War, he had decided to take the premise of a bunker in the backyard one stage further. The multimillionaire moved 26 feet underground into a 16,000 square foot luxury space, designed to withstand virtually any disaster and protect from almost any intruder.
Above ground the original entrance is a cave-like hole but down below, as befits a Vegas home, there is an all-pink bedroom, crystal and gold fixtures in the bathrooms, a swimming pool, waterfall and hot tub, and hand-painted murals of outdoor scenery on the perimeter of the home and garden. As the interior had never been exposed to sunlight or outside air it was perfectly preserved, with no dust or sun damage on the furniture and wallpaper, and today the home remains intact and as Henderson and his wife Mary built it. A computerised lighting system simulates daytime, sunset, dusk and night, complete with stars and the moon.
Today, the underground house is unoccupied but kept in immaculate condition by a caretaker living alone above ground. As Calypso began her stay, sleeping and working alone downstairs, she immersed herself in the surroundings of the underground house and staged self-portraits in different rooms. What she discovered dotted around the space further inspired her series. Pamphlets found detailed the latest innovations in cryonics from the 1960s to the present day, for example.
What began as a house built off the fortune of a well-known cosmetics company, incorporating the pursuit of beauty and preservation of the living, had since taken a disturbing detour to become an eerie trophy of those who were more concerned with eternal life.
For this exhibition at TJ Boulting from 16 May to 23 June, Calypso has produced an accompanying limited edition booklet drawing on the found printed materials alongside her own photographs. That this house even exists is a far-fetched fantasy that even Calypso could not have possibly imagined, proving once again that truth is indeed eternally stranger than fiction.