A CONVERSATION ABOUT TIME WITH:  

FRANKA PAPANDREOU

  Franka Papandreou is a Greek designer and artist. From designing and hand-sewing costumes for opera productions, to building stage sets, to producing a luxury line of  intricately printed silk scarfs, her talent is hard to pin to one place. I've known Franka since I was a very young child; her raspy laughter and quick wit alternately scared and thrilled me as a child. During the interview,  she held a roll of sewer's measuring tape in her hand during the interview, winding and unwinding the spool, and I was mesmerized and thrilled all over again by this extraordinary woman. 

Franka Papandreou is a Greek designer and artist. From designing and hand-sewing costumes for opera productions, to building stage sets, to producing a luxury line of  intricately printed silk scarfs, her talent is hard to pin to one place. I've known Franka since I was a very young child; her raspy laughter and quick wit alternately scared and thrilled me as a child. During the interview,  she held a roll of sewer's measuring tape in her hand during the interview, winding and unwinding the spool, and I was mesmerized and thrilled all over again by this extraordinary woman. 

 

Name:   Franka Papandreou

Age: 59

Occupation:  Designer

1. Word Association: What are the first five words that come to mind when you think of time?

 Black and White. Something that has been imposed to me, like should. Like somebody coming up to you when you are a child and saying, you should put on your vest because you will catch a cold. Time makes me a bit sad. And sadness is one word. Anxiety is another.  And trying to ignore it, I suppose.

 2. What is your earliest memory of time measurement?

Oh, I have to go back. I suppose time is imposed on children by their family, by their parents. It’s time for you to go to bed, it’s time for you to have your lunch, or whatever, all these rules are always based on time, most of them. So I think that would be. It’s bath-time, it’s time for you to take your fruit – I used to hate fruit – it’s time to you take your medicine, wait for your father to come, wait for Santa Claus to come. Wait. It’s waiting, most of the time.  Wait, wait, wait.

  The island Kithira is in red. 

The island Kithira is in red. 

 In your day-to-day life, as you move around in Athens or in Kythria, how often do you think about the times of the day? In a regular Franka day… Or do you think about it at all?

 Oh, definitely, I have a program. [laughs] I do! I usually organize my program the day before in my head – I never keep notes. I always have a day program, an evening program, a night program, a seeing friends program, napping program, eating program. So yes, I have that feeling that if I don’t have a goal, I will lose time completely. So yes, time is very relevant to my life in that sense. 

 And, because you live in Athens, and also here in Kithira, maybe it’s an obvious thing to say, but it’s different between the two.

 Of course.

What’s the texture of the difference?

 The must-have, the must-do things. Time is relevant. It’s always relevant to your goal. If you have to build a bridge, you need three years. If you want to go to the grocery, you need five minutes. Or if you have to – the relativity of time is always relative to what you want to do. Its always a big thing. In Kithira, its more relaxed. I don’t have a program as such. I try to work in different ways. So yes, I am rich in that way. I can use time in different ways in my life.

3. When do you lose track of time?

In my thinking chair. Not now, but if I was alone. I used to do that as a child as well. I was looking at the ceiling, losing time, losing track of time. And I needed it. Like a fuel for me.

 The thinking chair window, seen from the outside. 

The thinking chair window, seen from the outside. 

 View from the thinking chair. The window looks over the town of Chora, and onto the small uninhabited island Avgo ('egg' in Greek). 

View from the thinking chair. The window looks over the town of Chora, and onto the small uninhabited island Avgo ('egg' in Greek). 

So you have this thinking chair – do you have something like that in Athens?

No, I don’t, because in Athens, I really believe in – what the word – when there are many people and they produce a feeling, especially in cities, big cities, --

 Zeitgeist?

 Yes. And big cities, very big, they have a feeling. And they don’t let you, unless you are prepared to do your special breathing exercises, which you don’t need to do here, because its more free. [Manolis, her husband, shouts 'Franka' from downstairs. 'Ne?', she shouts back. No answer. She laughs.]  Every now and then I can hear a ‘Franka’ with no meaning.  So, every space, every city, every place in the world, has got its own sense of time. Kithira is rich. You can feel the no-time-lapse here. Athens is more difficult to do that.

 4. Have you ever had an experience, one that stands out for you, in which you experienced time moving much faster or slower than usual?  Something markedly strange?

 Oh, well. It always has to do with creativity then. It has to do, when time stops to exist in a sense. When you're focused very much in something that you love. And your brain cells are working in balance. And you create new things. Then time does not matter, for me. It doesn’t exist. I'm not getting tired, and I'm not getting sleepy, I'm not getting hungry, and after that I can look at the watch and it could be only 5 minutes that passed or 5 hours, I really don’t know. Because I have a very good sense of time. I always have had, ever since I was a child. Its something that’s not very good, it makes you anxious. The only time that I am out of it is when I am creative.

 Since you’re such a multifaceted artist, I’m curious what materials come to mind when you picture that moment. Does it happen when you’re alone entirely? Or can you be working with others, such as when you do stage production design?

 Oh yes, you can work with other people, very much so. Oh yes.

 So its not necessarily solitary for you.

 Oh no, I’m not a solitary person. That would be more of a painter, or a musician perhaps. I always work with other people. For me, it’s magic then. That time can stop and freeze and become very interesting. You know, have you heard about the imaginary time?

No, please tell me! 

 Well, we sense time as a line – past, present, future. In every present moment, there is a vertical line. It’s called imaginary time. It has been proven by physicists like Hawking and other great minds. But it really exists. You can, in every moment, we have all the time of the world at the same time. So, It is vertical, and it is also horizontal. That’s why time is relevant. Its always relevant.

 That makes sense, because it depends where you are on that axis.

 Yes, you see you are here [gestures back and forth, along the horizontal plane] and yet you are also in this huge, huge, space of no time, in that special moment.

 5. Well, I have a question that comes up later, but I’ll ask it now: If you could picture time, in any shape, what would it look like? 

I have synesthesia, I am dyslexic, and I think its combined. Because my memory works in different ways. In order for me to remember names and words that are very difficult, they come in colors and in different shapes. So, time for me is very angular. But the feeling of the time can be … can be soft. But it’s different. That’s why I told you it’s black and white, in the sense that it can be anything. It can have no color, or all the colors together, as white is. Does it make sense?  For me, time is an aggressive thing. It has been imposed on us. Not to think as we should have been thinking, in a sense. 

 6. What about your profession, as a designer? How does it influence your perception of time?

Well, in our modern world, your world, it’s time. Basically. Everything is based on time.  You don’t have… you have to… you are allowed to be lazy for half a day, you are not allowed to be more. You are allowed to be creative for half a day, you are not allowed to be creative for more. I think in our modern time, time has been replaced by numbers, and I think this is tragic. Because time is different from numbers. 

 If you could take away the numbers, and put in something else that would represent time, what would that be?

 Time, numbers, has to do with waiting for the next. When you see 1, you always expect 2. That’s what I mean by numbers. Okay. Time has collapsed 2. You can forget 2. You can go straight to 5 if you want to. And 1 and 5 can be one point, one tick. So, it’s not linear. And they have convinced us in modern time that time is linear, but it’s not. It is not linear. We live in a world of various trick numbers. Monetary numbers, time numbers. Numbers. You’re very good in school. You take a 10. You’re very bad, you take a 2. So you have to go from 2 to 10. [makes face] Numbers.  Pythagoras, the ancient mathematician, said that numbers are sacred. And not all should be allowed to understand numbers, because they are more than that, you see.

There is a very special quality to numbers. On their complete other edge – right where you sort of can’t understand them - they can do tricks of balance in which 1 and 5 can be the same point. In our daily understanding, of course it goes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, but they can become very fluid. But for most people, including me, my understanding of numbers is not so complicated. I am not a physicist,  I don’t understand them in their fluid way. You feel them rigidly.

 Yes, you feel them rigidly, but you also feel that that is not the only way. It’s not. We have been convinced by our system that the only way is up. 2 comes after 1. Up. But it depends. Depends.

I've just noticed that this whole time you’ve been playing with a measuring tape!  That's quite funny. 

[Franka laughs] Why yes, I have!

 7. Word association again: What are the first five emotions that come to mind when you think about time?

 Emotions regarding time usually have to do with past, isn’t it? Unless you are very young, and time is in front of you, and you are eager. So, sometimes you are eager. Sometimes you are sad, because you remember things, and people. It’s sweet, a soothing feeling, comfort in a sense. But still anxious. It’s a funny feeling really, not happy, but soothing I think.

 Yes, I think I understand – soothing and happy are not the same emotion. They touch sometimes, but they are not the same.

 Yes. The feeling of time is never happiness, but it can be soothing as well. Remembering is always a nice thing…  I suppose it depends on your life. But you can always make you feel better when you’re sad, if you remember things it can make you feel better. Or, sometimes it can make you feel worse if you’re happy. And constant. Yes, I think those are five words. Eager, eager to touch the next phase of your life. Fearless, sometimes, soothing. Constant. Yes. Ok. Now let’s go explore imaginary time! [laughs]. 

  Photo credit: George Richardson. 

Photo credit: George Richardson. 

 

This interview was conducted by Joslyn Richardson June 29, 2015.  It has been edited and condensed for this format. The interviewer is responsible for any errors in transcription.  All  images are either taken by the interviewer, or used with permission and credited. Map from: http://www.portari-houses.com/en/kithira-and-aroniadika.