TRIBAL CATHERING – TRIBALISING FASHION: THE ART OF EXACTITUDES
They’re a photographer and profiler and if they come from anywhere it’s post-punk fashionland Rotterdam, the ‘street-style’ movement of the late Seventies / early Eighties and the world of little magazines – the late British I-D in particular – that follow youth cultures around the world. They know where to look, they’re fantastically good at pattern-recognition – these trainers, that haircat plus, vially, that pose – and they know the fashion antecedents of everything from Hedi Slimane 2004 to Rio de Janeiro market designers Fakes.
THE INDEPENDENT, LONDON
IN THE HISTORY OF STREET STYLE,
SOME PLACES ARE BIGGER THAN
OTHERS. LONDON LOOMS LARGE,
MANCHESTER IS MASSSIVE, TOKYO’S
HARAJUKA DISTRICT IS LIKE DISNEY
WORLD, BUT NOWHERE IS QUITE SO
HARDCORE CENTRAAL AS LATE
NINETIES ROTTERDAM. THIS IS THE CITY
OF THE EXACTITUDES.
IDEA books, LONDON
Photographer Ari Versluis and stylist Ellie Uyttenbroek have long started Exactitudes, a project that, put it simply, is a striking visual record of more than three thousand neatly differentiated social types the artists have documented over the last twenty years. Started in 1994 in the streets of Rotterdam, this overarching and on-going project portrays individuals that share a set of defining visual characteristics that identifies them with specific social types. Be it Gabbers, Glamboths, Mohawks, Rockers or The Girls from Ipanema, Versluis and Uyttenbroek’s extremely acute eye allows them to discern specific dress codes, behaviours or attitudes that belong and characterise particular urban tribes or sub-cultures. Once they recognise an individual that fits the characteristics of a given group, they invite such person to be photographed at the studio with the only requirement of wearing the very exact same clothes s/he was wearing at the time they first encountered.
Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek’s practice arguably relies on semiotics— they make use of the elementary building blocks of this field that acknowledges that meaning-making processes result from the correlation between signifiers and signifieds that combined produce signs and languages through which cultural practices are conveyed. Versluis and Uyttenbroek are able to read cultural objects in such a fashion —by understanding the way dress codes and behaviours are encoded, they are able to assign meaning and point out the way shared cultural practices operate. Their focus is on investigating the way cultures, sub-cultures and social types produce, stabilise and disseminate meaning in the social arena. Exactitudes is an artistic project that takes the form of a sociological experiment which, in its turn, loosely operates on a scientific level. On the one hand, Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek’s prints present their subjects of study in a way that is somewhat reminiscent to those illustrations made by natural scientists to present and categorise specimens. In addition, the artists follow a strict methodology based on careful observation, isolation, categorisation and documentation. Indeed, it is the act of isolating the subject —and photographing it against a neutral background— what makes of Exactitudes an anthropologically relevant quest.
Exactitudes is an inquiry on how the self is constructed in such a highly volatile and complex social environment like ours in which a great number of opposing forces are continuously at play. Notions such as uniformity and individuality are at the core of Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek’s concern—how our desire to differentiate ourselves is also matched by a need to belong to a specific group—. Identity, which has been described by many authors as an eminently fragile, fractured and problematic notion, operates on many levels. Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek have narrowed their scope of inquiry to analyse the way identity manifests itself through dress codes and shared attitudes that on a wider stance points out to neatly differentiated social groups.
The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is proud to present Exactitudes, an exhibition by Dutch artist-duo Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek to celebrate the Netherlands’ EU presidency – Europa House London
Photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek have worked together since October 1994. Inspired by a shared interest in the striking dress codes of various social groups, they have systematically documented numerous identities over the last 21 years. Rotterdam’s heterogeneous, multicultural street scene remains a major source of inspiration for Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek, although since 1998 they have also worked in many cities abroad.
They call their series Exactitudes: a contraction of exact and attitude. By registering their subjects in an identical framework, with similar poses and a strictly observed dress code, Versluis and Uyttenbroek provide an almost scientific, anthropological record of people’s attempts to distinguish themselves from others by assuming a group identity. The apparent contradiction between individuality and uniformity is, however, taken to such extremes in their arresting objective-looking photographic viewpoint and stylistic analysis that the artistic aspect clearly dominates the purely documentary element.
Wim van Sinderen
MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAPHY, THE HAGUE