Ghost-writing: on the posthumous invention of Philippa Cullen

Bringing art to life through writing requires as much conjuring and invocation as it does research and enquiry, especially when it concerns dead artists whose apparent dues weren’t had in their lifetime. In reconstructing the artist and their milieu, a writer must take responsibility for the sweeping structural reorganisation that comes from historical revisionism. Learning that the history to which you cling is false and incomplete—a bureau for missing persons with stories untold—is like learning you are adopted long after the origin story has done its work. Simmering below the surface is a whole other tacit narrative, poised to rupture and irrevocably shift the tectonic plates of known existence. Such plotlines are spiced by romantic mystification as the past comes crashing into the present, restructuring present thinking for the future. Shadowy figures from a missing/missed past come to sparkle with freshly appointed grandeur, their newfound aura built at the juncture where verity and myth coalesce into histories rewritten from the ruins of memory. Whatever estate-sale fragments remain of such lives become talismans for new futures born from scholarship and telepathy alike.

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