Every winter, Foreign Policy magazine selects 100 people whose ideas and projects have changed the world in the outgoing year for its “Global Thinkers” Award. The chosen ones are then featured in a special issue of the magazine. This year photographers Ara Oshagan, Levon Parian and architect Vahagn Thomasian have been selected in the “Artists" category for their project iwitness. Other categories, totaling nine, include “Decision Makers,” “Challengers” and “Innovators."
Finding your name among the world’s top 100 visionaries and thought leaders is a great honor, but publicity must be even more important for the winners – especially those whose main objective is to make sure the world remembers the tragic events of their nation’s past. This is the case with Oshagan’s, Parian’s and Thomasian’s project — a temporary memorial to the Armenian Genocide Centennial, commemorated last April by Armenians worldwide. All of the creators are of Armenian descent.
The iwitness memorial was a temporary public art installation at the Music Center and Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles, set up from April 25 till May 31 2015. The installation consisted of an interconnected network of towering asymmetrical photographic sculptures wrapped with massive portraits of eyewitness survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The sculptures’ irregular, angular shapes spoke to an unbalanced world, continually at risk of war, ethnic cleansing and Genocide — crimes against humanity that the Armenian Genocide survivors had witnessed with their own eyes.
Ara Oshagan came up with the idea for the project after attending an event for the 80th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. He was touched by meeting 80 survivors there. “I remember thinking, 'they’re so fragile’,” he told the Los Angeles Times, “Tomorrow they’re going to disappear.” The project pays homage to the resilient, courageous and industrious men and women who, against all odds, survived the Turkish government’s systematic attempt to annihilate them. Now, thanks to the work of “Global Thinkers” Ara Oshagan, Levon Parian and Vahagn Thomasian, these survivors will be heard and remembered the world over.