Obama Foundation + Christoph Niemann: Illustrating Civic Participation at Home and Abroad

Ahead of President Obama’s trip to Germany, we reached out to Christoph Niemann — an artist who calls Berlin and New York home — to help us illustrate some of the ways the Obama Foundation will engage with people around the world. “I want to celebrate the myriad ways large and (especially) small in which people around the world can make a difference,” Niemann wrote.

Take a look at the animations and read, in Christoph’s own words, about the art and its meaning.


“Sun” by Christoph Niemann.

Civic commitment, at both a community and personal level, are key to tackling the challenges we face. It’s important to remember that empathy, tolerance, and civic spirit are not burdensome virtues needed in extraordinary moments — they are pillars of everything that is worth celebrating about modern life. Art has a similar function. Like music and literature, it’s not decoration or distraction from bigger issues — it is a fundamental part of what it means to be human.

With my animations I want to celebrate the myriad ways large and (especially) small in which people around the world make a difference.
“Perspective” by Christoph Niemann.

In “Perspective,” (above) I show the fluidity of “local” and “global.” I might have an almost identical perspective on many aspects of life with a person who lives 6,000 miles away. At the same time, my view might be light-years away from the views of my next door neighbor. The greatest challenges we face, like protecting our planet, require that we become better at focusing on what is far and near.

“Zipper” by Christoph Niemann.

Celebrating our shared values and the fact that we’re all different are not mutually exclusive. In “Zipper,” (above) I want to show that an event like the Kirchentag is a unique chance to build communities made from strong and independent individuals.

“Knitting” by Christoph Niemann.

The things that make us different don’t need to be obstacles to overcome. They can make society richer, as I try to visualize in the animation “Knitting” (above). To an outsider, knitting might seem a tad dorky, but it is actually a beautiful and intricate act of collaboration between two hands — that alone makes it a very poetic metaphor!

“Lights On” by Christoph Niemann.

Working on a community level may not always receive as much attention as working on the national or global stage. In “Lights On,” we see that the impact can be just as dramatic and exciting though.

“Lamp” by Christoph Niemann.

Lastly, I want to point to my personal favorite of the series. In “Lamp,” I’ve drawn a very straightforward metaphor of spreading hope and insight that continues into a perpetual circle of inspiration.