Useful Fictions is a collection of works on paper by artist and writer Shubigi Rao which takes its title from philosopher Hans Vaihinger’s notion that most human concepts are simply useful fictions. The term has now expanded in meaning to also encompass the enduring significance of fictional narratives and meta-narratives in human culture and history, whilst acknowledging their intrinsic untruth and our remarkable ability for self-delusion.
The works look at our attraction to flawed fictional narratives, how knowledge and information are accessed, and how we morph multiple bits of data into generating ideas, beliefs, and useful fictions. As microcosms of intersecting ideas and events through history, each work is seemingly self-contained, yet together they form a mesh of intersecting narratives. They are the visual equivalent of an oral history, where the process of narrating is as significant as the final “product.”
When faced with unknowable realities, we contrive epistemes and narratives that become useful fictions, helping to strain the world into our understanding. … [In Shubigi’s work] genealogies become lies, information shown as partisan, categories revealed as arbitrary. This is drawing as pharmakon, upsetting our binaries and other conventions of knowledge, such that the material before us can seem both more obfuscated and more open. The public voice and the private one are no longer easily distinguished, rocky nature and the hard place of the urban are false dichotomies, and nonfiction is not the only pragmatic art.1
 Jason Wee, “Wordplay, Drawing and other forms of Entropy,” in Useful Fictions, exhibition catalogue. Singapore: Grey Projects, 2013.