The Afghan Girl. Protocols of vision

Ugo Fracassa, Michele Rucci

From the famous photo taken by Steve McCurry, in the early 2000s the National Geographic began an “adventurous” search for Sharbat Gula, this is the name of the portrayed subject. Years away from the shot, the team of National Geographic has used a sophisticated piece of technology, already in use in the field of criminology, to match the correspondence between the portrayed refugee and the pashtun woman finally identified as “The Afghan Girl”. Such a technology is known as the Iris Scan The Iris Scan is, in fact, a model of biometric identification based on an algorithm developed by John Daugman, professor of Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition at the University of Cambridge.
The following research aims to identify the boundaries between scientific testing and intuitive sensory experience. Such a quest will entail a thorough investigation of the cognitive potential related to the artistic practice and the possible conflict that it establishes with the modality of experimental verification in case of “measurement”, recognition or identification of human subjectivity. In this way, we will focus on the old debate, opened during the late seventies by Carlo Ginzburg in his Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm (a study about the superiority of the human eye in detecting the significant traits of human faces) according to which “the naked eye is more sensitive to differences (perhaps marginal) among humans than to those between the stones and leaves» .