Visual Arts

Matthew Salenger on Urban Sprawl and The Individualocracy Project

In 2001, AZ DES reported that 40 percent of the Greater Metro Phoenix population changes every 5 years. This jarring statistic was the springboard for a series of projects undertaken by Matthew and Maria Salenger of colab studio culminating in their most recent endeavor, Individualocracy, which is up for funding on the USA Projects Website.

"Individualocracy is very much about attempting to research how we each contribute to the city's economy, culture, and development through large and small everyday decisions," Matthew says. "And through this research we also believe we found where many of the transitional 40 percent people moving to and away from Phoenix choose to live and why."

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Last year, the couple obtained a grant from ASU which allowed them to hire 14 ASU students to help conduct surveys on the lifestyle choices of people across Metro Phoenix. More than 100 people participated, answering questions from "where do you mostly dine out" to "how do you feel about the aesthetics of your neighborhood."

"We hoped to make assertions regarding how individuals directly affect the politics, economics, development, and aesthetics of a city," Matthew says. "Interestingly, we also uncovered how intra-city geographic locations indicate levels of an individual's connection to cultural and social communities of a city. In particular, people living within the large "middle" band of a sprawling city appear far less connected to urban social fabrics than those at the core or outskirts."

For the Individualocracy project, the Salengers are working with John Risseeuw and Dan Mayer of The ASU Pyracantha Press to produce a graphic representation of the survey results in the form of a book containing five hand-printed booklets.

According to Matthew, "four of them will each be based on interviewees, and contain several Turkish map-fold sheets spreading out as each booklet is opened. When all four booklets are pulled out and opened, they create a visual explosion of form, scale, color, graphics and textural information -- expressing individual diversity -- sprawling over a large area, much like the city of Phoenix."

The research findings will be published next year by the University of Georgia Press, and there is also an interactive website planned for a future phase of the project. The creative team hopes to disperse the findings of the research to a wider range of people by presenting the information in multiple formats.

There's still time to donate to the Individualocracy project via the USA Projects Website. There are several perks for various donation amounts -- we are eyeing the personal survey complete with individualized flowchart print. Donations end on February 5th so think about taking some of that Christmas money your Grandma mailed you and putting it towards this local research/ art collaboration.

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Katrina Montgomery