New York

Cover of Joanna Russ’s The Female Man (Allen & Co. Ltd., 1977). From “As If: Alternative Histories from Then to Now.”

Cover of Joanna Russ’s The Female Man (Allen & Co. Ltd., 1977). From “As If: Alternative Histories from Then to Now.”

“As If: Alternative Histories from Then to Now”

The Drawing Center

In his book The Philosophy of “As If” (1911), the Kantian philosopher Hans Vaihinger argued that our collective understanding of reality is built on “scientific fictions” that help us “overcome difficulties of thought,” and thus “the ‘unreal’ is just as important as the world of the so-called real or actual.” In 1929, the term science fiction entered popular media, thanks to the inventor and pioneering advocate of the genre Hugo Gernsback. Esoteric philosophy was the last thing on Gernsback’s mind when he started circulating the phrase—but the speculative literary works he published seem inspired by Vaihinger’s treatise.

The group exhibition “As If: Alternative Histories from Then to Now” at the Drawing Center could also have sprung from Vaihinger’s fictionalist premise. In the bookish zine that accompanies the show, curator Giampaolo Bianconi contends that the writing of history (no matter

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