Versión en Español / Spanish Version

Carlos Montani
From Daedalus to Thales of Miletus

Carlos Montani was born in 1965, in Monte Castro a neighborhood in Buenos Aires. He still works at the Lascano St premises where his grandfather and his father after him invented machines or worked on wood and iron. Carlos learnt by watching and eventually handling welders, saws and vices.
This techne, as the Greek called the mastery in craftsmanship Daedalus developed, was the starting point of his art, now without the utilitarian purpose.
After finishing high school obtaining an Aeronautical Technician degree, Carlos Montani doubted whether to become a mechanical engineer or a philosopher. He never imagined he could merge both disciplines through art.
In 2001, work relocates him in Costa Rica. There he met watercolorist Max Rojas who supported and encouraged him to attempt new art experiences. Within a more academic learning frame, he had the chance of attending Ruth Wasserman's artglass workshop, of top worldwide standards, where he experimented different techniques, among them glass fusion.

Still looking for ways to satisfy his imagination, he went from two-dimensional canvas to three-dimension. In 2010, he experimented with the spatial properties of the "Möbius band" in wood, a non-Euclidean or topological geometry that has the property of, among others, having only one side and one edge.
In the history of contemporary art, it was Swiss Max Bill who gave Möbius band a monumental dimension through granite, marble and bronze. Montani started experimenting in noble wood. He developed a variety of shapes that led to triple, double and simple knots expanding the mentioned shapes but keeping the mathematical calculi to obtain the perfect fit of the pieces.
Urunday, timbó and lapacho, highly regarded South American timber, are the woods chosen by Montani, a worthy Daedalus who joined perfectly sometimes over 200 pieces, each one different form the other, that merge into a continuous and smooth surface of soft tone variations ranging from reddish mahogany to ocher.

In 2011, Desanudado (Unknotted) was chosen to take part in the 100th National Sculpture Contest. This work is about two meters tall and seems to have unknotted the Möbius band to form a winding ribbon that rises magically from an entangled base, as if a force contrary to gravity were detaching it from the ground.

As a mechanical engineer, he worked for Grupo Amanco, a subsidiary of Grupo Nueva, created by a Swiss businessman whose company policy was to gain efficiency and competitiveness but with an added factor: Corporate Social Responsibility, i.e. the commitment with the communities, people and social groups that make up a region and their own characteristics as well as universal ones. This strong social commitment associated to business was the turning point that makes up the conceptual base underlying Montani's artistic creations.
This Swiss businessman stressed his interest in art and culture with the creation in Zurich of Daros Foundation that holds a massive collection of contemporary art and that in 2013 opened a branch in Rio de Janeiro for Latin American artists, considered one of the largest private collections worldwide.

When the First National Forum of Corporate Social Responsibility is held in Mendoza in 2010, Carlos Montani suggests that the organizers include art. This is when his first interactive piece came to place: Tierra intervenida=Mundo (Intervened Earth=World) is the relief of the world depicted on the two sides of a one meter diameter panel of wood. The attendants to the congress were invited to hit the earth with a pickaxe so that both the damage on the painting was seen and the noise of the tool was heard.
Thus the "Earth" was hit by attendants to the Forum and resulted in a damaged surface by the time the intervention of the attendants lasted.
The aim of the piece was to make each participant experiment the feeling of destructing something valuable and that the kinesthetic memory reminded him that social life relies on individual decisions.

In 2011 Montani takes action to help alleviate the needs of indigenous communities in Chaco and Formosa, such as Tobas, Qom. The idea was to summon show business and culture celebrities to print their hand or foot print on T-shirts and fabric with primary colors so they could be auctioned for food

Footprints of Love was shown in Hipódromo de Palermo. Montani put up a structure with the shape of a heart made of wooden boxes on which the hand and footprints were displayed. These boxes reminded people of cajons, the percussion instrument that is used in Flamenco-Andalusian typical songs and dances. During the exhibition, six musicians played live these cajons.

As from this experience, Montani created two intervened cajons he called Huinca Hug and Qom Hug with the image of two long arms surrounding the cajon that come together on the main face of it, a symbol of the changes a society can make when it comes together.

This is how Montani went form topological space sculptures to projecting conceptual pieces in which the intervention of people is fundamental. They could be classified under conceptual happenings because in this experience, the artist wishes to make participants conscious of the importance of human actions on the environment.

The first Greek philosophers in the 4th century B.C., pre-Socratic, sought the material principle of things, in the four elements: water, air, earth and fire.
For Thales of Miletus, water as liquid matter, is the basis of all things, the origin of life.
No life, whether vegetal of animal, is possible without water. Seventy percent of the human body is made up of liquid. Drinking water, odorless, colorless and tasteless, might seem insignificant, of little value, until we lack it.

In the year 2011 Montani devised an ambitious installation Water Footprints which consisted of a 8.40 by 2.40 meters LED lit acrylic platform on which rested a watery blue plastic carpet that, when stepped upon, left a vanishing footprint. Each footprint revealed a text that referred to the importance of water in the technological world that surrounds us with its artificial elements.
This piece was bought by Aguas y Saneamientos Argentinos, AySA, to be displayed in their Water Museum.
The title of this performance piece, recalls Dutch engineer Arjen Hoekstra's term in UNESCO-IHE 2002 when he coined water footprints to refer to the volume of water used to produce goods or services. E.g., 13,000 liters of water are needed to obtain a kilogram of meat throughout the process, starting from watering the grazing field to the slaughtering and commercialization of the cattle.

On March 22nd, 2012, International Day of Water, Montani resumes the issue on water by projecting a mega piece, a true work in progress he calls Aqua Planetae, and as stated by the Latin term, is about the water on the planet.
To achieve it, he designed a way of collecting "waters" from different parts of the world. Water samples are offered by friends, acquaintances or simply by people who want to be part of the project by adding the sample of water from their place of origin or from faraway places such as the water of Lanin Volcano at snowbreak.
Marta Minujín distributed water she collected in Honduras among Latin American artists and chose Montani to include it in his Aqua Planetae. Father Miguel Alderete Garrido collected water in Rome on the day Pope Francis was anointed to add to the project. One of the bottles carries the name Helena de Grazia because it has the water from the hospital where and on the day when she was born.
There is water from Base Esperanza in Antarctica, Easter Island, the Arctic Circle, sent by fellow Swedish artist that sculpted on ice in Kiruna, India, Greece, Turkey and, of course, many corners of Argentina. All of them are, despite their remoteness, water.

"In 20, 50 or 100 years, when water will be more scares than at present, this universe of primitive samples, just like primitive daguerreotypes, will enable our descendants to know the water each participant used to drink. I am moved just with the thought of it."

By the beginning of 2014, the number of samples is of about 1,400 bottles representing about thirty countries. All represented likewise, no hierarchy to differentiate them.

The intervention of people undergoes two processes: on the one hand, as an active donor by adding a water sample and, on the other hand, the piece expects the viewer to reflect on this vital element we tend to ignore. Only when we lack it, do we realize how essential what pre-Socratic Thales of Miletus regarded as the origin of life and the Universe is.

Aqua Planetae is a conceptual piece in progress, intended to make each viewer conscious of how intimately our life is linked to this source of life, which we all share the responsibility to take care of.

Adriana Laurenzi*

*Historian and Art Critic. Professor at National University Institute of Art and at University of El Salvador.

Content copyright 2010-2011. Carlos Montani. All rights reserved.