<i>Perfidy</i> | La Tourette, France

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The Independent Online

From Freeze to Sensation the rise and rise of the pithily titled, one-word group show is a phenomenon that has marked the past decade of art-curating. This summer, the trend has continued unabated. So far we've had Intelligence at Tate Britain, Beauty in Avignon and now there's Perfidy, an exhibition organised by two young English artists at Le Corbusier's Modernist masterpiece, the Monastery of La Tourette. Taking as their starting point the architect's entreaty to the Dominican order for which he built the place "to refuse any gift in the form of stained-glass windows, images [or] statues", Daniel Sturgis and Martyn Simpson have asked some 20 artists to make an intervention at this concrete-and-glass venue in the hills outside Lyons. It is the first such show in the building's 40-year history.

From Freeze to Sensation the rise and rise of the pithily titled, one-word group show is a phenomenon that has marked the past decade of art-curating. This summer, the trend has continued unabated. So far we've had Intelligence at Tate Britain, Beauty in Avignon and now there's Perfidy, an exhibition organised by two young English artists at Le Corbusier's Modernist masterpiece, the Monastery of La Tourette. Taking as their starting point the architect's entreaty to the Dominican order for which he built the place "to refuse any gift in the form of stained-glass windows, images [or] statues", Daniel Sturgis and Martyn Simpson have asked some 20 artists to make an intervention at this concrete-and-glass venue in the hills outside Lyons. It is the first such show in the building's 40-year history.

Of all the participants who have made work specifically for Perfidy, it is Thomas Demand who, by producing a rare non-photographic piece, has responded least predictably to the undertaking. Lawn, a shock of grass that is actually made out of paper, sprouts from the open drawer of a Le Corbusier table, its improbable location and uncanny viridescence suggesting that, like his photographs, this work, too, is inflected by something sinister. It is as though nature, which science once believed it could harness for the profit of mankind, appears to have broken free of our control.

The ethical fallout from the Modernist project may be uppermost in Demand's mind. But it is aesthetic concerns that predominate in Daniel Sturgis's nine ostentatiously decorative paintings that are scattered in various locations around the monastery. More than any other work on display, they clash with the restrained surroundings of La Tourette. For where the architect limited himself to a palette of primary colours, and rigorously obeyed the maxim "form is function", Sturgis has adorned his spiralling floral compositions with what Le Corbusier would no doubt have considered decadent pastel hues.

It is a contrapuntal tack also apparent in Jonathon Callan's bibliophobic contribution, Ambler's Story, a book the artist has seemingly chosen at random and which he has treated by minutely forcing silicon through the shapes made by each and every letter on the pages at which the volume has fallen open. As the silicon hardens, it becomes blobby, making words, those vehicles of knowledge, lose their definition and grow unrecognisable. Such manipulations show language, that normally transparent window onto thought, reduced to the level of base, oozing materiality.

If Sturgis's and Callan's work disrupts Le Corbusier's project on a conceptual level, then Martin Creed's whimsical yet poignant Large Piece of Furniture Partially Blocking a Door seeks to thwart the building's functionality in a much more literal way. When I tried it out, some orderly soul had decided to move the shelves in question back against the wall - for one monk at least it would appear that Creed's piece is an intervention too far.

The same might be said for Rock My Religion, Dan Graham's expletive-filled video whose inclusion in the exhibition is evidence of an astute curatorial sensibility. For where Le Corbusier's Modernist structure was designed to give religion the ultimate contemplative setting, then this 1984 film suggests that the anxiety induced by modernity has produced an altogether less abstract strain of devotion that began with the ecstatic practices of 18th-century Shakers and culminated explosively with punk rock in the 1970s.

Although such a grungy historical account of religious sentiment conflicts with the utopian hopes and Christian ideals embodied by Le Corbusier's creation, not all the works on display operate in such an oppositional way. Martyn Simpson's painting Barney insinuates itself into its surroundings by mimicking La Tourette's colour scheme. But where the monastery's pigments are used as a way of delineating features such as doors, Simpson's composition follows an arbitrary line created by the grain of the wooden board supporting his painting.

More subversive still is Ana Genoves' Block of Stone. Neither functional nor real, this lump of hollow cast plastic sits in the middle of the refectory, pretending for all it's worth that it's the real thing, and betraying our belief in it being just that.

The loss of belief in long-held certainties is Perfidy's theme. If this well-conceived, cerebral exhibition has deliberately flouted Le Corbusier's request to keep La Tourette free of ornament, then it has done so in order to suggest how the faith that Modernism placed in the rationalist principles of the Enlightenment has today been shaken almost beyond repair. The works evoke the unstable, proliferating systems that constitute the world in which we live. Placed in a building dedicated to clarity and instrumentality, they show how art can betray the very walls on which it hangs.

To Saturday, Couvent Sainte-Marie de La Tourette, Eveux, l'Arbresle, France. For more information, call 0033 4 74 26 79 71

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