EMMA COHEN & SONJA KATANIC
A Longform Conversation
HOW I LEFT MY HEART ABROAD
THE BIG COUNTRY
ILLUSTRATION BY SONJA
So I guess for me the way I always framed thinking about Flash in the Pan was pretty much in the context of late-night escapades, that was always my way of situating how the issue would be structured, because for some reason nighttime always reminds me most of Flash in the Pan.
I know exactly what you mean. There’s this weird sense of being totally, hmm, I don’t even know what the right word for it is, but that feeling of floating in this space that has no time or even I guess space itself- like there’s this weird moment of just being which is so magical.
Exactly, and there are always certain times you’ll meet people and your encounter with them feels like it could’ve only occurred within this one encapsulated moment/night/setting/apartment/house or whatever, like the people you encounter and the conversation you have and the place it occurs is all indistinguishable and reliant upon each other - like one aspect of the moment couldn’t exist without the others.
Totally feeding off that, sometimes it is about meeting someone new and all that, but I think what is even better is when that moment happens with someone you’ve known your whole life, or at least a really long time, and suddenly you have this moment of suspension, that flash, where things are new and strange and bright and you didn’t really know it before? You know what I mean? Like you’re sitting on the balcony of your apartment in this new city and someone you’ve been friends with forever is there with you, and the music is right and the air itself just feels, like, sticky with that feeling. It surrounds you completely. I love that.
Yes!! And it’s so strange to look back on. Like, on my birthday when we - what did we even do? First we went to dinner and then we went to the palm readers and then to the movie and then we sat on the balcony and it was just like this is such a specific thing that is happening, even though to anyone else it would just seem maybe normal because they don’t have the context to access it or the codes. And then sometimes I wonder if things seem as significant to everyone as us or if we just read into things a lot?
Oh man, that’s so true. I think you and me in particular read into EVERYTHING a lot, and I don’t know if that’s normal. I love that though - when we sit in your bedroom and the lights are glowing and we just talk about how IMPORTANT this one thing that happened on this day last year is, or something. Or how much we loved doing those little things, like going to Jack’s the morning after some night, or going for those drives in the creepy roads out in the middle of nowhere, scaring ourselves. Or even reminiscing about those things that weren’t normal, like being in Paris, but still didn’t feel like that cliche THIS MOMENT IS AMAZING, but more like just being somewhere with someone you just really love spending time with, and it’s more that second part that feels important vs. you know, being in the Louvre and looking at the Mona Lisa, right???
Totally, like one of my fondest memories from that whole trip was when we were outside the Louvre and watching those two Parisian students who we didn’t know if they were on a date or not, and then walking around trying to find beer and a baguette so we could have a picnic near them and feel weirdly a part of whatever was going on with them. And the sunset was so good and we were in Paris and it was just crazy. And now we look back on that whole trip in retrospect, and I have like a hundred photos or so, and the whole trip flashes, I guess. Becomes condensed into these really specific moments, photos, written things. I remember while we were there you were always pulling out your little notebooks you bought in the Marais and drawing tiny things that happened - and those tiny things, like the couple making out in the park or girls drinking wine on the patio - seem so much more real than taking a picture in front of the Eiffel tower, and also way more interesting.
I love that in retrospect we can see that and appreciate that we were able to appreciate those things, you know? Like I love that we have maybe a total of like, seven photos at the Eiffel tower which we mostly took as proof, and one of those photos was that cute boy who was laying on the grass. And then we have like THOUSANDS of photos of us doing stupid stuff in the streets, or the cool posters we saw glued on the brick walls, or the pretty people we saw. It’s so important to me that we were conscious enough to pay attention to the things that matter to us, you know?
And I feel like that’s also why I love the concept of these flashes is that a lot of the time I feel like I’m kind of analyzing things as they happen, which I don’t like because it takes me out of the moment, but I feel like I’m sometimes wondering oh, how does this moment fit into the rest of my life, how will this change things, how can I preserve this? But then in those flashes with random people you aren’t thinking that. Like, meeting Hanny the one British dude that Kylie was kissing in Nice at the bar, that was so random but a totally encapsulated flash that I will always link with that night and that trip. Or, remember when that guy came up to us on the subway in Toronto that I had met the week before at a party, but then I totally couldn’t place him for a few seconds because my memory of him was so defined by him sitting on the ground in that apartment fixing a record player or dancing weird late at night, and it was so strange for that flash to reappear out of context.
It’s weird how something seems to exist so much in a moment. Like after it passes, it seems like it shouldn’t even exist anymore? That’s how I feel about new people I meet, or even a new side of someone I see in a moment sometimes. It’s like, when that thing appears again in a different setting it feels ingenuine in a way, like it’s betraying its true self and true way of existing. Maybe that’s not a good way of looking at the world, but I find it really interesting. Because then you look back upon everything and there’s this line of distinct snapshots of things that happened. I love having that as a reference, especially when working on any art, because I think it gives me more of a visual reference as well as a meaningful one. I’m always struggling to make the most meaning I can in my art, something I’ve been struggling with lately in the current medium I’ve been using, but having those moments that I’ll transfer into art, at least they have meaning to me? Which is a step forward.
Totally, and I feel like I struggle sometimes in my writing with writing things that seem super meaningful to me but maybe don’t to anyone else? Whenever I’m writing a short story or really anything, my first instinct is to draw from a really specific event or moment and then extrapolate meaning from that event, and like use the burst of feeling/visuals/dialogue to layer on other ideas. But sometimes I worry that if I’m being too personal then the writing won’t touch other people because they won’t be able to get the references in the same way? At the end of the day, though, I kind of feel as if specificity actually makes things more deeply felt by an audience, even if they don’t know first-hand the actual event, but are clinging to the details we put into the art, in your case, or writing, in my case.
Yes!! And I forget sometimes that has a consumer of art, I LOVE consuming others work when it focuses on something specific that happened to them, because in this strange second-hand way I feel like I was there too and suddenly this moment in someone else’s life is also a weird moment in mine, of observing it. Like with photographs of really intimate friendships and these beautiful moments, I always feel like this strong kinship with it. Whenever someone creates something that focuses on an event that is like a flash, I always find myself drawn to it in a really strong way, to the point where I’ll obsessively look at pieces like that over and over and over again. Like Lorde’s Pure Heroine, or Pinegrove’s Cardinal - I guess it's especially strong in music for me, but really any art.
That kind of art is definitely my favourite, I feel, where I can feel inside of it, or aspire to it in some weird way? Or aspire to preserve my own moments like that. I totally agree. Also, on just the note of flashes, I think another interesting aspect of them is that when something only lasts one night/moment/whatever, it is perfection forever. It will never have any flaws, there are no bad feelings about it. I remember us having a conversation over google docs at the end of grade eleven about a bunch of our friends leaving for college, and even that as a flash, that moment in time was so perfect because there was this really crystallized sadness and nostalgia for these friends, and if you isolate moments like that they seem perfect, but then you have to deal with the aftermath of weird feelings and drifting apart. Which is why those flashes are so beautiful (and why them being preserved through art/photography/writing is so beautiful) because they never get diluted with strange texts and broken plans and lukewarm feelings later.
In the time you were writing this I went to go look at that google doc!!!! It’s so odd to see something you wrote (even if in this case it’s this jumbled up string of text-like conversations that I can’t even totally distinguish who wrote what) in retrospect about something. Do you know what I mean? Like looking back on the art you created because of a moment you’re reflecting on. That’s the strangest. So much has changed on the topics we talked about in the doc and it’s odd that for us in that moment those memories were those forever moments, while now, yeah those memories still exist like that in a way, but the actual google doc conversation is more so the thing I look back upon as a flash.
The nature of time always trips me up in that way. That I still feel so much like that person I was at the time of writing that because I remember so clearly what was happening (that car drive home, the miscommunication, who we had crushes on, the party we’d just come from, etc) but also the amount of NEW things that we look back on now. And how quickly moments become things we look back on. And also, I find it strange how flashes can be a prolonged amount of time, too. But then in retrospect they are a flash. Like, all of a year, or an entire relationship, or having a crush on someone, or being obsessed with like Crybaby or one playlist. It’s a prolonged process, but now we look back on it as a compressed amount of time. And then I’m like, are all relationships like that? Seems scary.
I know what you mean. I’m really glad I’m this person who has these crazy obsessions in life (ie. Harry Styles, Cry-Baby, this futurama one I’m in currently) because that directly translates into this whole flash thing, and I love having those to look back upon as eras of my life as much as they are blips in my life. Like, I have this weirdly defined timeline of my life based on the things I loved at certain times (people, places, culture things). It is really scary that sometimes it feels like all relationships are like that. Sometimes I really do love having things feel like a compressed amount of time - sometimes it’s easier to digest something that way. But other times it feels like “whoa did a lot of my life just go to waste for how long this thing actually happened but now it just feels like one tiny millisecond in my entire life?” I worry about that a lot.
I definitely tend to, especially in my journals, divide my life into epochs and eras. And it’s not based as much on obsessions for me as it is for you, but in a weird way I think because our lives continue to be so closely linked because of our friendship, your obsessions are also kind of markers in the epochs of my life? So weird, but I dig it. But yeah, like when I’m writing about certain moments or aspects of life it’s almost as if I’m looking back on my life and dividing it into sections. But then something comes outta nowhere, and all of a sudden your life shifts - mostly because of a new person entering it. And it’s weird, because sometimes you meet someone and you know that meeting this person will change things, but sometimes you don’t know that until you look back.
It’s so fascinating to me that these parts of my life are directly proportional to yours, and I mean it’s the same vice versa. It’s always so strange to me that we have these same things in our lives, or like the same focus on stuff. Like we discovered the online zine world at the same time, and then got into the same culture stuff, and although we are our own beings and obviously really different in a lot of ways, it’s so cool that we have the same sort of progression through it all in an abstract way. And it’s interesting that it continues on even though we don’t see each other regularly for the majority of the year anymore. To be fair we were practically married this summer, but still, it’s just so comforting knowing that someone out there is changing also, and I just think it’s really obvious to me when you go through your changes and somehow that initiates the change in my life too.
Yes! And it’s something I think about a lot, the idea of growth and “moving on” and worrying that if any of us grow “too much” then we won’t all still be linked, but I feel like for certain friendships there’s this underpinning thing that will just keep it together. And then that’s the antidote to the flash. Because it’s so awesome and cool to meet these shining people for a night and have this really distinct memory to link them too, but if you only had that and didn’t have people who were constants in your life, who grounded you and you could kind of talk to about those flashes, I think I’d feel off-balance. And I sometimes do, when it’s been awhile since we’ve all talked.
Oh man, for sure. But I also have these moments of flashes in relation to people like you who are the grounded people in my life- like your birthday again. Or even my birthday, you know? Like going to the cameron house and sitting at that table and taking those dumb photos. Like in the moment I was oddly disappointed with it all, and then in retrospect it turned into this amazing moment??? And it involved two people I know really well now: you and Brad. And I love that that can happen, because even though sometimes it feels like I know everything about you, it shows me that there’s still these little new versions of you I can keep preserved in those moments. Like you on the balcony. Or Nin that one time she came to visit and being in the ice cream shop that apparently you think I obsess over too much. Or Kylie in the version of her that is the one that lives in Nice. In a way, that version of Ky will forever be in Nice. Like if I ever go back to visit, she’ll still be driving that winding road down the mountain to downtown, or floating in the pool.
I’ve never really thought of it that way, but it’s weirdly reassuring and amazing that the people you know so well can keep unfolding in front of you. And I think it’s interesting too how a person can go from being part of that instantaneous, temporary flash to something more lasting. Like Luzy for example, when I introduced you guys I really didn’t anticipate that we’d be hanging out with her the next summer in Toronto and that you’d live at her house for a week and that we’d be crouching silently in her dark kitchen before a surprise party for her with a bunch of people we’d never met. Or like that night we met up with Arman and Brad in Arman’s dorm last fall and we didn’t really know either of them and now that’s hard to imagine.
It’s funny you bring up Luzy’s house because that is one of the strongest flash moments I’ve ever had. Living in this space in toronto with her and her burlesque-dancing girlfriend and her girlfriends sister who also burlesques and her girlfriend’s sister’s friend who is a busker along with a rabbit, a chinchilla and a female cat named Jack - like that house is forever this weird space to me where it feels like time will never affect it. It’s always gonna be standing there and all those people are all going to be living there forever. I love that memories can do that, that they can exist in this way in your head that isn’t “this happened” but “this is always happening.”
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