LOS ANGELES — The City of Los Angeles and the Armenians made news, Saturday, September 17, when the Armenian Genocide Memorial was unveiled in the presence of hundreds of people in downtown Los Angeles in Grand Park.
Thanks to the efforts of Los Angeles County Supervisor, Michael Antonovich, the first Genocide Monument was installed in the City of Los Angeles.
The first monument in the Southland is in Montebello’s Bicknell Park unveiled on April 21, 1968.
The idea of having an Armenian Genocide monument in Los Angeles grew out of last year’s iWitness installation in Grand Park, marking the centennial of the Armenian Genocide with huge portraits of survivors beautifully presented. The speaker was Supervisor Antonovich.
The iWitness project is a collective made up of artists Ara Oshagan, Levon Parian, architect Vahagn Thomasian and other activities and artist.
The permanent monument is made of black volcanic tuff rock imported directly from the Ararat Valley of Armenia. Tuff is indigenous to the Armenian highlands and deep-rooted in that millennial history. It has been the material of choice for centuries and used to build hundreds of churches, historical buildings, and artworks. The monument is a silent witness to the Genocide itself. The sculpted angular shape of the iWitness monument is an echo and extension of the iWitness installation.
“This remarkable memorial honors the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide and offers a space for contemplation and reflection,” said Supervisor Mike Antonovich. I’m thrilled to have monument installed at Grand Park where people from diverse beackgrounds gather to celebrate and reflect in this urban oasis. It’s a natural fit.”
Sculpted by Vahagn Thomasian, the monument is both organic and conceptual. It is sourced from the earth itself and blends in with the natural flora and fauna of Grand Park. The monument is split in two symbolizing the spiritual and physical rupture of the Armenian Genocide: a disruption of history and community not only for the Armenian Nation but also for all of humanity.
“The idea that a rock can be a witness is perhaps unusual but very significant”, says artist Ara Oshagan. “It was there and that history is embedded in it. A witness needs not speak to be a witness. Just like the trees around Auschwitz are witness to the Holocaust.”
The juxtaposition of smooth and rough surfaces on either half of the iWitness monument further symbolizes the past and the present and re-emphasizes the disruption between the two realities.
In his talk, architect and designer of the sculpture, Vahagn Thomasian said: “The monument is sculpted at 4,24,19,15 degrees symbolizing the date of April 24, 1915. The monument has meaning at every level of its conceptualization and construction.”
At the bottom on the floor, the statue is surrounded by the words of the Pulitzer Prize winning Armenian-American author and playwright, William Saroyan advising people to live the day of your life.