There is a clear call to action in Priscilla Rose Howe’s work for SCAPE Season 2023 – a call for more permanent queer spaces in Ōtautahi Christchurch. Howe’s figurative work suggests a space that is at once magical and worldly, uniquely Cantabrian and desire-filled. The scene depicted here suggests a bar, club or speakeasy. Although the artist leaves open the precise nature of the space, the work unambiguously populates that space with queer bodies drinking, eating, dancing, talking and expressing themselves.
Although friezes are an ancient format, Howe’s project has been produced using contemporary technology. The base frieze was 3D-printed, then hand-painted by the artist. Historically, friezes tell stories about current political or social events. Using this medium to validate, propose and depict a potential queer space is the artist’s way of speaking to the current situation in Ōtautahi. The work is a soft yet staunch demand for Christchurch to open venues that prioritise queer experience and life to thrive in, on a daily basis.
Howe envisages their project as a conversation-starter that extends beyond the material object of the frieze, and includes queer space activations which will take place during SCAPE’s 2023 Season.
Howe wants the artwork to build on the already existing efforts led by the queer community in Ōtautahi, further extending the advocacy to “feel seen and acknowledged as an important part of the fabric of the city. I also believe this is an artwork to remind the wider community that queers do exist here, and we are ready to take up lots of space.”