"I find entheogens to be much more interesting and beneficial to one’s character and life," says collage artist and illustrator Eugenia Loli. The term "entheogen," whose Greek origin translates "generating the divine within," refers to psychoactive plants and fauna (e.g., ayahuasca, cannabis, peyote, shrooms and hallucinogenic toads) used to pursue spiritual enlightenment. The Athens-born artist sometimes includes entheogens in her artwork, which tends to offer social commentary on spirituality, pop culture and modern clichés. PRØHBTD spoke with Loli to learn more.
You've described your pop collage art as "sarcastic surrealism." How do you convey irony in the collages, and what themes do you commonly mock or show contempt for?
I think it’s more evident on my Oh L’Amour set of artworks. I kind of have this idea that, while love can last a lifetime, being “in love” does not last more than a couple of years, and it’s that part of common wisdom that I usually mock. Another one is our relation to food.
What guides the direction you take? For example, is it the main vintage photo, an overall narrative you imagine or a specific social commentary you wish to make that tends to guide most pieces?
It usually starts with an image I like and I feel an internal drive to collage upon. Every time I started the other way around—for example, trying to create a collage with a preconceived theme—it never came out right. Finding the right images we can use is difficult, so even if we have a good idea of what we want to make, the right image might not exist. This is the big difference between collages and paintings or illustrations.
What sarcasm or social commentary is inherent in the piece High Generation (image above)?
It’s a statement about the fact that a lot of our youth are into cannabis these days. After the 1960s, weed went underground, but it resurfaced in the last 10 years in a more public way while carrying less of a stigma. I think that’s progress.
Same question for Great Year (image on below).
That particular artwork is not so much sarcasm as it is a statement of how I see life, the universe and everything else. Besides, if you’re going to get high, at least get high with the right substances. I find it tragic that America is currently under an opioid epidemic. These are destructive substances outside of a carefully thought-out medical environment. Instead, I find entheogens to be much more interesting and beneficial to one’s character and life.
With your Instagram post for Great Year, you included hashtags like #dmt, #lsd and #shrooms. Do psychedelics play a role in the creation of your art or in your personal life in general?
I’ve done quite some research on psychedelics, and I find them very interesting. My favorite part is reading DMT reports, though that doesn’t mean that I personally use psychedelics. I do have a door open to “other worldly” places, but that usually happens to me via lucid dreaming. Meditation is where I eventually want to go big time in the future. When I find some time away from working daily, I’d probably meditate for three or four hours straight. Reaching the so called Enlightenment, hopefully….
Tell me about Three Minutes to Nirvana (image below).
This artwork, my deepest and most complex to date, is about the journey humanity must take towards ascending into a higher state of being. The structure represents all that we can comprehend while in our human form. It's also what keeps us within boundaries, limiting our existence, experience and understanding.
The bottom level is about developing, learning and trying out various routes. In the process, and among progress, there's also war and misery, as evident by the fire in the background. The cube in the field is the teaser of the ultimate prize, placed in by the people on the top level, who are the "Ascended."
The second level is about expanding our horizons further, making the leap towards an enlightened state. Notice the woman in black ready to make the leap. The man on the staircase calls her, trying to keep her back, but it's too late. She has superseded him. She is intrigued by the possibilities. The man also signifies the various forces that will try to keep humanity back on its journey. Notice that the observable universe is also within the boundaries of the structure.
Two humans are attempting to reach the third level. One is climbing the old fashioned way, and the other one is using transhuman technology to get there. Both choices are acceptable. At the end of their journey, they won't be "humans" anymore anyway.
Notice the trophy award in the middle of the third level, right below the angels painting. These two people think this is the ultimate prize. But that's just a trap. The third level is the most difficult level towards reaching ascendance because humans will have to leave behind all their vices, delusions and personal limitations. Most never manage to do that. Their only enemy in this level is themselves. Notice the human skull, hidden by the flying spaghetti monster-like flower.
At the very top, the Ascended people are waiting for more people to make it to the top. In the whole artwork, they are the only element depicted outside of the structure, able to see the bigger picture. They're beyond time and space. Notice the planet above their heads, alluding that there may be more levels. Knowledge and wisdom have no limits. There's always something more to explore, know and live.
(Interview continues after images.)
How would you describe your current collection of vintage stock photos, and what is your process for seeking out photos that other collage artists ideally won't find?
I don’t use images that others don’t have access to. My collaged images come from very old magazines, but these aren’t that difficult to find on Craigslist. It’s what you do with the images that matters in my opinion, not necessarily having access to the rarest photos.
You've said you want to transition into modern lifestyle illustrations in an Eastern European style. What makes the Eastern European illustrations distinct, and what about the style appeals to you as an artist?
I like them. They are not surreal at all, and they don’t necessarily convey big ideas. They’re simple artworks that transpose common feelings rather than ideas, and I think that for some people that also works. I love the work of Yelena Bryksenkova, for example.
How do you envision taking this style of illustration and making it your own? What elements will overlap, and in what ways would your style be different?
Ah, well, I’m known to be weird. So instead having women with cats on their lap looking sleepy among lots of flowers, I’d probably portray women on the streets, protesting about freedom of choice. Somehow, I can get political rather fast. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with sleepy women with cats on their laps.
You were born and raised in Greece and then lived in Germany and England before moving to California. What did living in four very different cultures teach you about life, relationships and art?
In Germany I was working as a janitor and in restaurants before I went to college. In the U.K., I was working as a computer programmer. And in the U.S., I became an artist. I think the U.S. has the largest degree of freedom in terms of making your dreams come true. Somehow, the culture here is geared towards that, particularly in California. In terms of life, I found life in the U.K. to be rather miserable. We’d work all day at the office, and most of my co-workers would immediately go to the pub after that to get wasted. I couldn’t blend in since I don’t like drinking. Life in Greece is more relaxed and easy going, but at the same time, there are no opportunities. I think California is the best place to be today, if one can afford it.
You've said you like the writings of German philosopher Georg Hegel. I want to list a few Hegel quotes and get your take on them. First, "I'm not ugly, but my beauty is a total creation."
My take on it would be that everything is a perspective. What we call “beautiful” is completely subjective on both the personal and even species-wide level. So I’d think that Hegel there recognizes himself as beautiful, but at the same time accepts that this so called beauty is made up by his experience as a human since everything is neutral by nature.
Another: "Education is the art of making man ethical."
It depends on the education. Not all educational systems are geared towards making people ethical animals. Most today are just about information gathering. Hegel might have been referring to philosophy itself as education, but unfortunately almost no high school in the world today takes philosophy seriously.
Last one: "The Few assume to be the deputies, but they are often only the despoilers of the Many."
That’s representative democracy for you. The only way around this problem is either via more voting on issues every few weeks, or we have to wait for a time where telepathy is commonplace, and we’re connected to everyone on the planet. Then we’ll know how they feel and what they need, and we’d provide it. Funny thing is, while people are complaining about not being represented, they’d also complain about the two solutions provided—the “more voting” and the “no privacy in your head anymore." They want their cake and eat it, too. Something’s gotta give.
Regarding the last quote, how might you apply it to the Drug War and cannabis prohibition?
The drug war in my opinion is a travesty, used not only to control the masses and their political opinions, but maybe more interestingly to have a monopoly. Look at the Afghanistan opium production under the Taliban before 9/11 and then under the U.S.-CIA control after it. You’ll see that production went up! How do you think these guys are funding their black projects?
What aspects of filmmaking—including visuals and storytelling—give you more creative satisfaction than making collages and illustrations?
The immersion of it. Like it or not, the highest medium of art today is film and cinema, not collages, illustrations, paintings or even music. Cinema contains all of these in it, and at the same time, supersedes them. The next step is connecting yourself into a virtual reality world where you “play” the main character in the movie. To make that convincing, we’d need a bit of brain tech, too, to disconnect us from our current reality while we play in the movie. Such tech would sell like hotcakes.
And taking many DMT reports into account: What do you think this life we live in is anyway?
You seem to be a major fan of science fiction. If you were to script a realistic sci-fi movie that takes place in San Francisco 100 years from now, how would you characterize the city and the rest of the country?
If no earthquake or global warming has taken the Bay Area underwater by then, probably it’d be an ultra connected place with AI running everything. But I see no interesting plot there, to be honest. I’m already writing a “sci-fi” script, you see, and it’s about altered states of consciousness and traveling to other dimensions and planets in that capacity rather than using spaceships. That’s where the sci-fi genre needs to go in order to survive, in my humble opinion. Look at Netflix: so many original shows and not a single space opera. SyFy Channel has two, and both are mediocre, in my not so humble opinion.
Stars Wars or Star Trek? And which incarnation of it?
Star Trek: The Next Generation is the best piece of sci-fi ever written and shot, in my opinion. The Next Generation was my mother and father growing up, educating me on issues that my true parents simply didn’t have the intellectual capacity to do so. I wrote about TNG in detail back in 2006.
I don’t quite like as much the rest of Star Trek. I particularly loathe the new movies that are just pure action movies. As for Star Wars, to me, it doesn’t pass as sci-fi. Just because it has space travel and robots in it, it does not make it good sci-fi. To me, Star Wars is a medieval fairy tale of good and evil, complete with warlocks, knights and princesses, just retooled to be set against technology. Enjoyable to watch, no doubt, but still a cop out as far as sci-fi goes.
David Jenison (email@example.com) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD.