The Beauty of Impracticality

Text Matilda Kivelä. Photography Bryan Saragosa.

When did convenience come to mean twenty-four-seven culture, disposable objects and pre-sliced fruit? When did the quest for ease trump our craving for harmony? The freedom promised by convenience might lie somewhere else entirely.

 

There is something quietly revolutionary about carrying a knife and a fork with you: the simple pleasure of knowing that the objects that you live with have seen the corridors of trains and boats, lazy evenings and balmy afternoons. It is a new kind of attachment to the essential, and a humble reclaiming of the beauty of inconvenience in a world that strives for faster, stronger and more efficient every day. This series was shot on a train trip from Milan to Rome, winding through Naples and the islands in the Gulf of Naples. The dinnerware and cutlery used in the images was used in day-to-day instances: picnics, lunches, dinners and water breaks.

We live in a convenient world. Trees bend to our will and only grow tall where we let them. We buy fresh, sticky mangoes from our grocery stores’ fruit aisles in the dead of winter. Roots, grass and moss are tucked in with thick blankets of asphalt that help our cars run smoother. From evening to evening, we turn our homes into impromptu restaurants with the help of couriers that deliver parcels of steamy noodles in styrofoam boxes to our doorstep. A culture of convenience dictates how we eat, migrate and live.
 
Immediacy and convenience have quickly become an expectation. A minimum to be met. Around-the-clock delivery and bodegas that never sleep have become the pinnacles of ease. An incessant quest for speed and efficiency—a byproduct of the industrial revolution—has set us down a path dotted with devices and services that make our every waking moment easier. Yet, despite economist John Keynes’ predictions, these innovations haven’t given his great-grandchildren the liberty of only working for three hours a day. On the contrary: we work harder and faster every day and have built our entire world to support our need for speed. Convenience has become a contemporary golden cage; an unsightly habit that’s hard to break. Ripe, pre-sliced fruit and pre-assembled salads are now the only glimpses of Keynes’ great-grandchildren’s long-promised freedom.


Amidst a culture that urges us to take the shorter way, it is easy to forget the distinct beauty in inconvenience; the lessons hidden in impracticality. Inconvenience invites us to sit with discomfort and find gratification in enduring something unpleasant. Spending more time than necessary on a task makes it meaningful, memorable and thus more rewarding. Reacquainting ourselves with the discomfort of overcoming barriers allows us to build lasting bonds with both the objects we own and the environments we inhabit. Choosing to wash your dishes by hand, feeling the flow of warm water, as well as every plate’s ridges and every glass’ imperfections, instead of loading them into a washing machine, is a quiet act of defiance. Tending to a garden that yields a modest batch of vegetables after a long and arduous winter is not convenient, but it is a gentle denial of a culture that constantly asks for more, faster and better. Tiny instances of impracticality just might show us the real path towards the freedom falsely promised by sleepless bodegas and door-to-door deliveries.