Universals is the ongoing project investigating the Google Images’ iconosphere through writing and creation of my own collections of packshots downloaded from Google which I find performing the strongest as images.

Pictures provide a whole range of ways to capture reality on both individual and collective levels. Especially in the context of the collective perception of the world by referring to concept-images, this seems particularly inspiring, because it proves how strong the image can perform. It allows images to be recognised as conceptual figures. It’s based on the extremely strong performativity of some of the pictures, thanks to which they become a universe gathering human imaginations, fears and memories. The affordability of such images is primarily to provide conceptual categories, thanks to which we are constantly accompanied by the image of every element of reality. One may be tempted to say that these pictorial collective symbols of human experience referred to by Mitchell as "representations of presentation?" shape in people greater sensitivity to similar historical moments, breakthroughs in the life of the community, which makes us more human beings. 

Abstraction Is Not lying. A Treaty on the Lemon and Other Entities is the first chapter of the Universals in which I explain what are the universals referring to the hierarchy of digital images based on its resolution and how they perform when investigated by humans. I am also experimenting with the idea of Google Images as a curatorial strategy generated by computer.

Universals reffers to the problem of universals relates to various inquiries closely related to metaphysics, logic, and epistemology, as far back as Plato and Aristotle, in efforts to define the mental connections a human makes when they understand a property such as shape or colour to be the same in nonidentical objects1.

UNIVERSALS. Part I: Abstraction is not lying. A treaty on the lemon and other entities, in: Visual Reality, K. Berlak, D. Bugaj, M. Domański, A. Osuch, Strzeminski Academy of Art Lodz, Lodz, Poznan, 2017. Click here to read.

Visual Reality was present in Przestrzen Robocza during Fotofestiwal and in Benaki Museum as a part of Athens Photo Festival in 2017.

Click here to read the Chapter II ︎︎︎
︎︎︎ Click here to read the Polish version


Each Universal is characterized by oneness, constancy and hierarchy. For instance – Universal of a lemon is inclusive enough to accommodate all tangible lemons, their images (mental and real) and words describing them. Universals are constant – a once seen Universal sticks in mind forever. It is exactly what we see in our mind’s eye when we think the word lemon.

Universals have a different hierarchy, which is nowadays ascribed to their resolution. Their prototypes are mathematical categories.

Some think that images (Universals) are not entities of their own, as entityness applies to substance only. They agree that images do exist, but only in relation with specific objects. This approach makes it impossible to keep thinking about an image if you can touch it. The image I’m thinking of exists – I’m sure of it.

There are different types of Universals. The first type are stand-alone image designates, isolated from the context.  The second type are Universals depicted in the context of a human investigating what a given entity can be. This investigation consists of three stages.

The first one is the physical stage,
where real qualities of the object and its reaction to the investigation are under scrutiny.  Some Universals are trying to be interpreted through human action. It shows a sad anthropocentric truth – humans keep stressing their role in defining reality, whereas it is the very objects represented by the Universals that provide us with some action possibilities and concurrently exclude others. We are only carrying out predefined actions. The more prone a human being is to playing with matter, the more interesting are the affordances provided by that matter.

Empty space of signs, where Universals are drifting, can be very easily filled with any thoughts, connotations and even theories. In a situation like this, a Universal can resemble a work of art. Sometimes it’s hard to say which one is the imitation.

The second stage
of the investigatio of Universals is the mathematical stage, when the entity is checked quantitatively (what does it compriseand what or who it relates to).

Grouped Universals are best observed in Google Images. This is where their day-and-night display takes place, contracting and expanding like the Universe itself. Aesthetic quality of the images is software-sorted. Based on specific parameters, the viewer can choose the viewing method and concomitant aesthetic experience. The cunning software-creator is a bit of an artist, not easily satisfied with a dry inventory of objects.

First, the curator-program shows us pictures covered by colourful panels. It’s an interesting strategy, utilizing performative possibilities of the Internet. Slow computers, like other deteriorating appliances, make us apprecia this performance even more. Uncovering the Universals resembles a TV game show, wherein the player is expecting the curtain to uncove a favourable result. As it happens, the prize can prove unsatisfactory.  like abstraction; therefore I pay attention to bold compositions.

Grouped Universals form open, complicated and original compositions, made up of a multitude of small elements. Scrutinizing these exceptiona images all together generates a most pleasurable, theoretical commotio in my head. If, for the purposes of analysis, we separate the rectangula panel from the object, we receive a Universal in its pure form and an abstract postphotography.

Looking at this photograph, I cannot remain indifferent. What we experience here is something beyond colour. In these mysterious rectangles, I recognize Metauniversals, representing a thought on abstraction where “the superficial impression of varied colour can be the starting point of a whole chain of related sensations” [W. Kandynski🔮️]. Abstract forms have an unlimited number of possible interactions.

Quantitative investigations of Universals provoke general reflections on colour and make the viewer ponder specific issues, like the colour scope of the panels covering particular entities. What was the programme thinking?

The third and last stage
stage, which defines the entity’s existence. Apparently abstraction process can lead to the conclusion that unempirical reality can indeed exist.

1 Klima, Gyula (2017), "The Medieval Problem of Universals", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.