Down to the Economy

Vienne Chan and Katja Meier

What would our societies and economies look like if they were designed by those with Down Syndrome?

Societies value intelligence, and most are developed according to a very specific kind of intelligence that values technical and instrumental capabilities. However, this has not necessarily led us to desirable societies, as large swaths of the population experience injustice and insecurity. In search of a different and more equitable future, this project imagines a society based on a different kind of intelligence. We have been working with members of the Down Syndrome community to hear their thoughts on a variety of socio-economic issues, ranging from housing shortage to the destruction of the rainforest. What we learned is that we are not so different from each other, but rather those with Down Syndrome hold more distilled versions of many social values. However, where we differ vastly is our experience of the world. 

As society at large perceives people with Down Syndrome as weak and incapable, their lives are often sheltered with almost every detail provided for. They are aware of how they are perceived, and that they are not free. The Down Syndrome community provides a glimpse into a world where social welfare reduces us to bare life rather than supporting our development. Taking in some of the ideas and experiences from the Down Syndrome community, we have begun sketching the elements of an economy in which we consider how we can all be equal members of society and enact self-determination.


Vienne Chan approaches money as a medium of social sculpture and seeks ways of re-imagining it to better address social needs. She has held a European Media Art Platform (EMAP) residency at m-Cult in Helsinki (2020), a Weisman Art Museum Creative Collaboration residency with the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota (2019). Vienne holds a MFA in Public Art and New Artistic Strategies from Bauhaus Universität Weimar, and was a recipient of a Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Scholarship. She is currently on the editorial board for the peer-reviewed journal, Money on the Left. Vienne lives in Duisburg, Germany. 

Katja Meier studied education at the University of Lüneburg with a focus on educational work and social pedagogy, dealing with the interface between social and cultural work. She currently works at the Theater Lüneburg, and as a freelance theater pedagogue for the Thalia Theater, where she leads the inclusive theater group Eisenhans. At Theater Lüneburg, she is responsible for the youth clubs, the accompanying program for the Jungen Bühne, and dramaturgical introductions. With the music theater director Kerstin Steeb, she has recently created the opera film Der Wald, based on an opera about right-wing mindsets in Germany by the British composer Ethel Smyth.

Project Credits
Agnes Wessalowski, Amon Nirandorn, Christian Wismer, Dorothee Reumann, Mila Zoe Meier, Philine Strauß

Herbert Enge und Neele Peters (Thalia Theater Hamburg), Karin Rissen-Nizvani (Klabauter Theater), Annika Wismer, Carsten Wismer