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
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
ANTONI FERRER CURATOR LONDON
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.
PETER YORK THE INDEPENDENT, LONDON
“L’ exactitude n’est pas la vérité”
Inspired by a shared interest in the striking dress codes of various social groups, the Rotterdam-based photographic team of Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek have been systematically hamstringing such permutations of received identity for ten years. They call their series Exactitudes, a contraction of “exact” and “attitudes”. It’s August Sander and Eugène Atget turned on their heads by Bernd and Hilla Becher - a direct assault on the mythic formula that photography plus the street equals authenticity.
By dragging the repertory of the street kicking and screaming to the studio backdrop, the series offers a purposely absurd response to the sentimentality of Jamal Shabazz (“Back in the days”) and the beloved and utterly bogus spontaneity of the photo booth. It’s a perfect fit for an age that’s made the “cool hunt” a corporate pursuit. Of course the photos are starchy and obdurately posed and ever so consciously styled, because there can be no meaningful limit to the cross-contamination between those notions of a authenticity and supreme self-awareness.
GIL BLANK INFLUENCE MAGAZINE, NYC
The Definition of Self
Photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek classify random people whom they see in cities around the world according to particular characteristics of their appearances and attitudes. They create categories which comprise of people who share the same attributes, and give each catagory unique names. This is the artwork they developed together for more than 20 years. We always belong to some sort of groups. But when we are classified into a certain "tribe' by a third party, ignoring that reality, most of us shall be surprised to find out how different other people see us from the way we see ourselves, thinking "so this is me in other people's eyes". This gives us an opportunity to realize again how we are perceived in other eyes, irrespective of our will or intention, or reality.
What's more interesting is that despite the fact that our real selves are left behind, we find other people very satisfied with their classification, which was based on the appearance and attitude we have not necessarily been aware of before.
MASAHIKO SATO 21_21 DESIGNSIGHT, TOKYO
NEW YORK MAGAZINE
RICHARD BUCKLEY VOGUES HOMMES INTERNATIONAL, PARIS