Martina Huynh is a graduate from the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, with a focus on design research and interaction design. During her studies in the department Man & Communication she quickly specialized in conceptualizing and playfully translating research on
societal changes into tangible experiences to further the discussion and make active proposals for alternatives.
Which is why her projects often take shape as multimedia performances, video essays or interactive installations, placed in an everyday context. Particular fields of interest are digital humanities and alternative ecologies / economies. It was the national debate in her home country Switzerland in 2016 that provided the first sparks for her graduation project Basic Income Café. During the referendum, one could vote on whether every Swiss citizen should receive an unconditional basic income every month, that is high enough to cover one’s basic needs – no questions asked. Even though the proposal was rejected, Martina continued to keep updated about the global debate on a universal basic income and quickly noticed the many different versions and interpretations of such an economic scenario. Which is why her interactive installation Basic Income Café – by simply visualizing the flow of money though coffee – raises the question of; What kind of basic income people want in their country – rather than whether the idea should be implemented or not, since that depends very much on the conditions and intentions. Since then Basic Income Café has been tested in the Netherlands and in Italy. Martina is looking for places in different countries to further prototype alternative economic futures with others.
Apart from this project, she is also currently investigating how our relation to technology is shaped by its interfaces. For more information, visit: www.martinahuynh.com
Project: Basic Income Café
The idea of an unconditional basic income, is an increasingly prominent topic in progressive economics. This complex idea is often understood in a rather simplistic scenario where every citizen receives a guaranteed monthly income, hopefully enough to live by, with no questions asked. But basic income is not basic income!
A universal or unconditional basic income can differ greatly depending on the intentions and conditions of its implementation. In this interactive installation visitors can experience two different basic income economies, using coffee to visualize the flow of money.
Upon entering the café, visitors not only receive a free cup of basic income, they also see where it came from and how they can – if they like – contribute to the basic income coffee pot by ‘going to work‘ (in this case: grinding coffee beans).
Visitors are provoked to experience the underlying economic models first hand and while interacting with other participants are able to test the social dynamics of such basic income scenarios.
And apart from being a discussion piece, the café also acts as a research tool to ask people what kind of basic income they would like to see in their country or what people would want to work on if their income were taken care of.
Basic Income Café Manifesto
It’s time to redefine the concept of work. We believe that work compensated through money is not the only valuable, meaningful work. And the creation of jobs for the sake of keeping people busy is absurd. People should be spared from work if there is none!
But wait, if I don’t work, how am I supposed to buy a cup of coffee?
We strongly believe that we need to secure income, not jobs. That’s why everybody should have the right to an unconditional basic income —or in this case: a free cup of coffee, providing enough energy to kickstart your day. Look at it this way: if you don’t drink a coffee first, how can you work? Because if our basic needs are covered, if we need not fear that we cannot earn our coffee, we can choose work more freely and be more mindful of others.
As a community we make sure there is enough coffee for all of us. Guaranteeing an unconditional cup of basic coffee, from everyone to everyone. And if you want more than one cup of coffee? Go work for it!
Grind some beans and just make coffee! Now, do you prefer to work in order to get your coffee, or drink coffee to enable work?