LOS ANGELES — On December 1, Foreign Policy Magazine released its list of 100 of the world’s Leading Global Thinkers—men and women whose ideas have been translated into action, impacting the lives of millions worldwide. The magazine recognized Glendale- and San Fernando Valley-based artists Ara Oshagan, Levon Parian and Vahagn Thomasian for their public art installation that highlighted the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 by the Ottoman Turkish government. The oversized portraits of Armenian Genocide survivors was hosted by Los Angeles County Major Michael D. Antonovich and on display for two months earlier this year at the Music Center Plaza and Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles.
“This year’s Global Thinkers hold the key to what is driving change today. They have demonstrated extraordinary innovation, passion, creativity, and thirst, and have translated their ideas into action, impacting millions worldwide. We are excited that this year’s list features more women than ever before,” said David Rothkopf, editor and CEO of The FP Group. “This special annual issue is a chance to reflect on the past year, and look ahead to tomorrow.”
Each year, Foreign Policy selects the leading Global Thinkers whose contributions and work have changed lives and are shaping the world. This is the year of “changing our minds” – from legalizing same-sex marriage across the U.S. and Ireland, to major diplomatic triumphs, including Cuba and Iran – these thought leaders teach us that even though cultural and worldwide struggles continue, there is hope for a better future.
Past winners include Alibaba Founder Jack Ma, comedian John Oliver, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whistleblower Edward Snowden, and Pope Francis.
A special microsite on Foreign Policy’s website is devoted to the 2015 Global Thinkers and the iwitness project.
“The iwitness installation creates an immersive space where audiences are confronted by larger-than-life images of eyewitness survivors to genocide and mass atrocity and can themselves become witnesses to the witnessing of the survivors,” said project director and artist Ara Oshagan, whose grandfather was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. “Mass killings and genocide, the non-ending refugee crisis, all have global impact. We wanted to highlight these issues that continue to happen today—in the same region that the genocide of Armenians took place. It seems like nothing has changed in 100 years.”
The first-ever large-scale public art installation at Grand Park and the Music Center Plaza, iwitness is an inter-connected network of towering asymmetrical photographic sculptures, wrapped with massive portraits of eyewitness survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The installation design concept is by architect Narineh Mirzaeian and the sculptures ranged in height from eight to fifteen feet. At night, they are illuminated via solar energy from inside like lanterns.
The irregular, angular shapes of the sculptures spoke to an unbalanced world, one continually at risk of war, ethnic cleansing and genocide—crimes against humanity these Genocide survivors witnessed first-hand.
The installation paid homage to the resilient, courageous and industrious men, women and children who, against all odds, survived the Turkish government’s systematic attempt to annihilate them. Scattered across the globe, they rebuilt their disrupted lives and communities globally in the aftermath of genocide.
A temporary memorial to the Armenian Genocide centennial, iwitness also served as a reminder of other genocides that followed in the 20th century (the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, Syria today) and are still occurring today.
“Vahagn, Ara and I are descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide and inheritors of its trauma,” said iwitness co-founder and photographer Levon Parian. “With our work, we wanted to face the multi-generational inner demons.”
“And the Turkish government continues to deny it ever happened. We have not been allowed to heal, even now four generations and 100 years later,” said project lead architect, Vahagn Thomasian. “It is an open wound, unfinished business for us. For all of humanity.”
The iwitness team attended the 4th annual Transformational Trends conference and Global Thinkers celebration held by Foreign Policy Magazine on Dec. 1 in Washington, D.C. The panels featured current and past Global Thinkers who have traveled from around the world, as well as current and former USG officials, diplomats, and think tank experts. The goal was to tackle issues that have eluded solutions to force society to see the challenges we face in new ways and to stimulate unconventional thinking.