A tactic is a calculated action . . . that makes use of the cracks . . .
in the proprietary powers. It poaches in them. It is a guileful ruse.
Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life,
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press,
1984, p. 37
A family story
When I was a child I often heard a story of how one day, while my grandfather
was away, my mother and grandmother used white paint to cover the ceiling
decorations in their neoclassical house in Crete. From the way my mother
recounted the story, I always felt that the whitening act was a great thrill for
the female side of the family, something that gave them a sense of achieve-
ment and satisfaction. They had cunningly managed to make the changes they
wanted and caught my grandfather by surprise, utilizing their female ponirià
every time I heard it. Why white paint, the “unspoken obsession” of modern
architecture?1 Were these women obeying Le Corbusier’s “Law of Ripolin”
that suggested that “inner cleanness” can come only after whitewashing
one’s walls?2 Were they trying to turn their well-to-do, architect-designed
house into a humble dwelling from an Aegean village? It is more as if whiten-
ing the ceiling fused a traditional model of cleanliness with a new idea in the
air, that of modernity. Indeed, the crucial next step in my family narrative
involved their moving into an urban polykatoikìa apartment in Athens, a
housing type that exempliﬁed this fusion, as I will show below.