Inside Galeria Melissa – a unique gallery space in Melissa’s fashion footwear outlet in Covent Garden – an alternative beauty salon has been created by the young British artist Juno Calypso. The Salon exposes the many aspects behind the cult of beauty. Here, you’ll encounter the promise of rejuvenation and relaxation, as well as the more sinister and disconcerting reality of a world governed by self-improvement. Visitors will undoubtedly leave questioning what the detrimental implications are in our ritualistic fascination of aesthetics.
The Salon encompasses two aspects: an animated video that will welcome you upon entering the gallery and an immersive installation inhabited with imaginary clients.
Calypso has collaborated with Paris-based design and animation duo GERIKO aka Antoine Caëcke and Hélène Jeudy, to create a 3D rendering of a pink-tinged spa. The desired effect of this animated realm is to seduce you with the same triggers a real spa would use in their promise for pampering perfection. Yet, for all its inviting magenta hues, recliners of relaxation and supposed tranquil femininity, the video hints at the fabricated and clinical tones of beauty establishments, only heightened through the technological depiction.
The ominous scope of beauty is further dissected and tampered with in the basement installation. More operating theatre than spa, Calypso has created a red-saturated space inhabited with mask-wearing spa attendee replicants that wear identical gowns and plastic shoes from Melissa’s SS18 MAPPING collection. On a treatment table lies a replicant specifically modelled on the artist.
Here, the ritual and devotion to being born anew, revamping ones identity, is brought to the fore. The premise people actively buy into, whether at a luxurious location or salon in the basement of a building, is the same.
As a self-professed ‘life-long member of the cult of beauty’, it’s Calypso’s fascination for the performative spaces and prescriptive psychology induced through the act of beautifying that makes the work all the more intense and impactful. Ultimately, are we in control, or are we subjects of a greater order?
‘Inspired by the statue artists of Covent Garden, I wanted it to be unclear whether these people were real or not. I wanted the audience to be slightly on edge, anticipating whether any of these models would suddenly spring to life. One figure in the room is a cast replica of myself,’ said Juno Calypso of the intention of the work.
Calypso is best known for her photographic work, which foregrounds the construction of femininity. Taking on the guise of a fictional character, Joyce, Calypso photographs her alter identity in residential accommodation from bedrooms to bathrooms. Initially she secretly used her two grandmothers homes when they weren’t in before using more specific sites like a couple-only resort in the USA.
‘In my photographic work, I’ve always worked alone and used myself as the subject. This is the first time I’ve explored self-portraiture in 3D form. I wanted the audience to feel like they were really stepping inside one of my photographs,’ said Calypso.
Although this is the first time the London College of Communication graduate has stepped away from the camera, the outcome is a transformative experience that can only enhance her photographic practice.
Juno Calypso: The Salon is at Galeria Melissa, 43 King Street, London, WC2E 8JY from February 15 to April 15, 2018.
Want to see more art in London? Check out the best free exhibitions on in the city this week.