Triefenbach and the City

by Michael R. Allen

If you have yet to see Jason Wallace Triefenbach’s video/installation Hero, Compromised at the Contemporary Art Museum, get over there as soon as you can. Jason’s work, part of the Great Rivers Biennial, is a dreamlike reflection on the ideologies and myths embedded in the life of a fictional city dweller, played by the artist. The end credits are interspersed in a monologue-style musical performance that is as fitting an ode to living in St. Louis as I’ve ever seen. Jason is willing to transcend simple parody by pushing his critique past the limits of humor and self-consciousness and into the realm of the uncomfortable — exactly where art should take us.

For an artist whose work is deeply rooted in the everyday experience of life in St. Louis, it would be easy to mock, deride and sulk. That’s what others tend to do — offer their assorted fuck-yous and I-can’t-seem-to-get-always to those of us foolish enough to like this town. Jason is way ahead of others, though, because he curses the town down while making it a better place to be. His curse is full of as much life as the river that flows through St. Louis; it’s no self-indulgent death wish.