maandag 21 maart 2016

I sounded like I was having the best sex Juno Calypso Photography

'I sounded like I was having the best sex': Juno Calypso's one-woman world tour of honeymoon hotels
With their heart-shaped hot tubs and mirrors everywhere, Calypso has found that love hotels are the perfect place to explore what marriage means, why we feel ugly – and plan world domination

June Calypso
Thank God they hadn’t redecorated’ ... Untitled, 2015, by Juno Calypso. All images courtesy the artist and Flowers Gallery

Nell Frizzell
Thursday 2 July 2015 12.30 BST Last modified on Thursday 2 July 2015 13.34 BST

Twin Peaks, The Shining, Psycho: the pastel pink walls of out-of-town hotels often paper over a hotbed of sinister, sexualised weirdness. Which makes it no surprise that artist Juno Calypso is showing a new series of photographs made on her unlikely one-woman road trip to a honeymoon hotel. Calypso’s images come heavy with the scent of vanilla air fresheners and bacon pancakes. They swell with sexual frustration, and drive a sense of dread right into your stomach.

“It was a pink 1960s gothic nightmare,” says Calypso, when we meet for a drink to discuss her work. “I got dropped off at a diner in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania and had to tell a woman there that I was going to the love hotel. She looked me up and down and said, ‘Just you? Just one?’ Then I got picked up by The Love Machine, this flowery van full of ripped smelly seats that drives couples around the resort because they’re too lazy to walk.”

Juno Calypso, A Dream In Green, 2015
A Dream In Green, 2015.

Calypso, who often photographs herself in the guise of alter-ego Joyce, had found a picture of the honeymoon hotel’s dusky pink bathrooms online. It was the perfect setting for the bored, frustrated, lonely housewife of her imagination – until she discovered it was on the other side of the Atlantic. But the draw was insurmountable. “I was stuck,” says Calypso in her matter-of-fact north London voice. “It was very inconvenient, but I knew I needed to do something as crazy as the stuff I did as a student. So I saved up all this money and just went. On my own. For a week.”

The “crazy” stuff includes her standing in a car-sized birthday cake in her mothers’ front room surrounded by rotting prawns and salami for Popcorn Venus; photographing herself wearing a remote-controlled 1970s anti-wrinkle mask reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter; and lying motionless, for hours, beside an open can of luncheon meat in Reconstituted Meat Slices.

The First Night, 2015.

When she arrived, Calypso found that the resort – which is used both as a honeymoon retreat and a last-ditch, make-or-break destination for disillusioned couples – had barely changed in decades. “Thank God they hadn’t redecorated,” she says. “My room had a heart-shaped hot tub and mirrors on the ceiling. I only left it for the all-you-can-eat breakfasts and dinner. The rest of the time I was just alone in my room taking pictures.”

There is a sense of airless claustrophobia about much of Calypso’s work. But in the Honeymoon Hotel pictures, that frustration is twinned with loneliness. “It’s sort of half fictional,” she says. “There’s this woman, alone in a hotel room exploring herself. But then I actually am a woman, alone in a hotel room. There is no Joyce, it’s just me – I’m the creep. I expected the hotel to be way more kinky. But apart from once hearing a guy say ‘Are you going to wear your suspenders tonight?’ I only heard snoring. And I was standing against the wall, listening.”

The Honeymoon Suite, 2015

Calypso spends hours setting up each shot, staring at herself until, exhausted, something finally clicks. “The green one is my favourite,” she says. “I’d tried one of those deep sea clay body masks months before. I didn’t have nipples any more; I looked like an alien. It stayed in my mind, so I bought some green body paint and just stared at myself. That image is all about why we feel ugly. Why, on some days, we look in the mirror and just see a gargoyle. We actually see a monster. And why we spend hours in the bathroom trying to shed, shave and wash off this horror to reveal our true ‘beautiful’ selves.”

Speaking of scrubbing, Calypso ended up spending two hours, in a pair of exfoliating gloves, with a flannel under each knee trying to get that green body paint off the bath. “I sounded like I was having the best sex,” she laughs.

Juno Calypso, Massage Mask 2015

Calypso is now planning to visit other, similar resorts. “I’m going to honeymoon hotels all over the world. Places like Bulgaria and Russia, as well as those love hotels in Japan. I want to do a one-woman romance tour of the world,” she laughs. Has the project changed how she feels about marriage? “We’ve painted the single woman as this bitter figure who really wants all that,” she says, “but I’m not sure I do. And I’m not sure that’s right. Because, actually, in some of the photos I’ve ended up looking really powerful, like I’m preparing for world domination.”

Taking over the world one heart-shaped bath at a time? Now that’s a revolution to get behind.

Alleen maar Joyce
19 maart 2016

Daar zit ze, op haar knieën in een hartvormig bad vol schuim. In een zuurstokroze kamer van een Love Hotel midden in Pennsylvania. Een plek waar rijen stelletjes elkaar hand-in-hand de liefde verklaren of pogingen doen er tóch wat van te maken. Caleidoscopisch weerkaatsen haar rode bos krullen, haar borsten vol bubbels en een doordringende, bijna arrogante blik in de spiegels rond het bad. Twaalf keer alleen maar Joyce.

Joyce is het geesteskind van de 26-jarige fotograaf Juno Calypso. Ze is het zelf die in al haar foto’s de hoofdrol speelt. Calypso bedacht Joyce in 2011 tijdens haar afstudeerproject aan de London College of Communication. „Ik moest wekelijks nieuw werk leveren. Ik had geen zin in gedoe met modellen en werk liever alleen.” Haar docenten waardeerden wat Calypso als Joyce liet zien. Een verveelde, gefrustreerde en eenzame vrouw. Die haar dagen slijt als receptioniste, stewardess en masseuse.

Na die eerste foto’s wordt Calypso bejubeld, ze valt in de prijzen. „Geadoreerd”, noemt Calypso het nu. „Ik voelde een enorme druk om meer te produceren.” En dat deed ze. In de tweede serie oogt Joyce hopelozer. Haar gezicht bedekt achter de kussens van haar bank, schoonheidsmaskers en zonnebrillen. Of achter haar eigen haar, terwijl ze levenloos op de grond ligt naast ingeblikt vlees. „Ik wilde via Joyce, in een geconserveerde en gestileerde omgeving, kritiek leveren op de vorming van vrouwelijkheid. Perfectie, the polished life.”

Wéér valt Calypso in de prijzen. Een Caitlin Art Prize, een expositie, nog een expositie. Dan is het stil. Calypso maakt een jaar lang geen werk.

Tot nu. Joyce keert terug als een sterke, zelfstandige vrouw, die zich niet meer verschuilt achter haar baan, haar spullen, haar vrouwelijkheid. Die in haar eentje – „ik ben écht graag alleen” – naar een liefdeshotel gaat, zich opmaakt, baddert, zich van haar netgelakte teennagels tot haar perfect gekapte haar insmeert met groene klei en verandert in een levend standbeeld. Met deze serie wint ze de International Photography Award 2016.

„Op de foto’s is Joyce trots op haar onafhankelijkheid.” Alleen voor een all-you-can-eat-ontbijt verlaat ze haar hartvormige cocon. „Dat is Joyce, en misschien, een klein beetje, ben ik het ook zelf.”

Astrid van Rooij

The Making Of Joyce from Juno Calypso on Vimeo.

The Honeymoon Suite from Juno Calypso on Vimeo.

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