Juno Calypso’s booklet published to accompany her solo show at TJ Boulting ‘What To Do With A Million Years’
Second edition of 1000 copies
Known for her iconic photographic series of self-portraits in ‘The Honeymoon’, for this new body of work Calypso discovered a surreal and unique location – an underground house in Nevada, USA.
Built by Avon cosmetics founder Jerry Henderson in the 1960s, with the advent of the cold war he had decided to take the premise of a bunker in the back yard 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 in tact 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.
After Jerry died Mary moved to a newly built house directly above ground but died herself shortly after. The underground house is now 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 the different rooms. Whilst there Juno became aware that the current owners were in fact a mystery group with an enthusiasm for immortality. A stash of pamphlets found in the house detailing the latest innovations in cryonics from the 1960s to the present day served as inspiration, adding to the spirit of preservation running through the location’s past and present. 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 Calypso has produced an accompanying limited edition booklet drawing on the found printed materials alongside her own photographs. It begins with the history of the house, photos of Mary Henderson with children and Father Christmas, party games in the kitchen and garden, and ends with the material she absorbed from her conversations with the caretaker and the cryonic magazine library upstairs today. 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.