Trio of artists recognized for collaborative project in remembrance of Armenian Genocide survivors


Three local artists recently made the annual list of 100 Leading Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine for their collaborative art project revolving around Armenian Genocide survivors.

Artists Ara Oshagan, Levon Parian and architect Vahagn Thomasian were the creative minds behind “iWitness,” an installation composed of about 40 structures bearing the images of elderly genocide survivors.

On the ground below each enlarged photograph were the names of the individuals and a brief snippet of their story.

Oshagan and Parian started taking pictures of survivors 20 years ago, when there were many more of them still alive, and interviewing them for hours on end.

Thomasian built the angular structures. All three are descendants of genocide survivors.

The installation was up for two months last spring at Grand Park during the 100-year commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, which started in 1915.

“It’s an immersive space,” Oshagan said in a phone interview. “[The survivors] are watching you with their eyes and telling you what they saw and were transferring what they had witnessed.”

He added that one of the most powerful experiences during the installation was when about 40 relatives of survivor Arakel Izanian gathered at his photo.

Oshagan said he was honored to receive the recognition, but a bit surprised in a good way.

The United States government has yet to officially call the events of a century ago a genocide. Oshagan said it’s good to see at least some major outlets like Foreign Policy are referring to it as such.

“I think maybe perhaps there’s a shift in attitude. Maybe because of the anniversary and maybe these years of political activism have perhaps paid off,” Oshagan said.


Arin Mikailian,

Twitter: @ArinMikailian