Imagine your average Doomsday prepper’s underground bunker; a low-ceilinged, dark, dingy room with a make-shift sofa bed and cupboards jam-packed with tinned food. Luxury and fallout shelter don’t seem like an obvious match. Juno Calypso’s latest surreal self-portraits, however, prove this assumption wrong. Her series What to do with a Million Years, which is currently on display at London’s TJ Boulting gallery, sees the artist posing inside Nevada’s — perhaps even the world’s — plushest bunker.
The bunker was built by Avon cosmetics founder Gerry Anderson in the 1960s, during the peak of Cold War tensions. The shelter lies 26 feet underground and is essentially 16,000 square feet of spacious, impeccably decorated pink and white rooms. “They lived down there full time. It has a swimming pool, guest house, dance-floor, barbecue, plus a garden surrounding the house with lights that can switch from dawn to daylight to dusk,” Juno tells It’s Nice That. From bathrooms with multi-mirror wall arrangements and chandeliers to fake gardens with artificial turf and plastic plants, Anderson’s bunker is a piece of art in its own right.
“I mainly just wanted to show how wild the house was. I didn’t have to do a lot. It was like a ready-made film set,” Juno says. What to do with a Million Years is distinctly Juno; staged and cinematic, her portraits are a glimpse into the unnerving lengths people will go to in order to preserve their youth. Building on The Honeymoon, Juno’s latest series looks deeper into the utmost extents people will go in search of eternal youth. Juno’s eerie, unsettling photographs are a powerful and poignant reminder of “the extreme end of beauty. Radical anti-ageing. Immortality and eternal youth”.
During her time in the bunker, Juno discovered a series of cryonics pamphlets detailing the latest innovations in low-temperature body preservation. While these pamphlets intrigued Juno for their divine promise to prolong youthful life, she was equally inspired by the fact that “their graphics and images are so good”. She adds: “The current owners have an interest in cryonics and immortality so that really influenced the work. I liked that both the first and the current owners shared this interest in anti-ageing and preservation.” When asked if she faced any challenges while shooting What to do with a Million Years, Juno replied “I didn’t when I was working but being in Las Vegas for three weeks did take a bit of a toll on me.”
What to do with a Million Years will be on display at TJ Boulting in London until 23 June 2018.