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︎︎︎ Image credits: Sabine Rovers


︎︎︎ Image credits: Nicole Marnati


︎︎︎ Image credits: Karin Fischnaller


︎︎︎ Image credits: Iris Rijskamp


︎︎︎ Image credits: Martina Huynh


︎︎︎ Image credits: Martina Huynh


︎︎︎ Image credits: Martina Huynh
Martina Huynh

Basic Income Café


︎ Interactive installation
︎ Economies, collaboration
︎ Basel, Switzerland /  Rotterdam, The Netherlands
︎  www.martinahuynh.com



Project description
In the interactive installation Basic Income Café, visitors are able to experience two different basic income economies, whereby coffee is used to visualize the cash flow. One system provides a basis that is sufficient to meet all basic needs (full cup of coffee / energy), the other provides a helping hand (only half a cup) and assumes there is extra income to achieve a full (basic) income. Martina Huynh uses the coffee metaphor as an accessible context to provide insight into a complex concept and to enter into conversations about money and politics. The installation consists of café furniture with an integrated custom in-built coffee machine, plexiglas bialetti sculpture housing the coffee, etc. A research assistant is usually present to guide visitors through the experience, letting visitors drink a cup of basic income, work for more income (grinding coffee beans), see their taxes flow, contribute to the 'local economy' etc.


How is the project/work related to the idea of a Universal Basic Income?
“Do you prefer to first work in order to earn your cup of coffee, or first drink a coffee that enables you to work?”

The idea of an unconditional basic income (UBI), 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!

In this interactive installation visitors playfully experience two different basic income economies, using coffee to visualize the flow of money. Upon entering the café, visitors receive a free ‘cup of basic income’. They see where the coffee came from, and if they want more, they just need to ‘go to work’ (grind coffee beans). That way, value is generated (brewn) - part of which is their extra salary (additional income) - the other part flows off as tax contribution to the communal coffee pot.

Visitors are provoked to experience the underlying economic models first hand and while interacting with other participants are able to test potential social situations in the basic income scenarios. What happens to our work ethics? Will there be enough coffee for all or do we fall into a “financial crisis” ( = run out of coffee)? How do people invest the ‘extra’ energy they got? By creating an environment in which these social and economic futures can be prototyped, the café acts as a research tool to find out where the public sees the optimal relation between work and income. For that reason the café opened for 3 months as a public pop-up café in The Hague, which included a series of semi-structured interviews with people from all walks of life.

In essence, research on basic income is translated, and shared within an engaging educational format, through which new knowledge is gathered, to again inform further political action.


Further projects ︎︎︎