Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nina Hagen — That kooky krautzer babe with the New Wave hooker wardrobe cranks up your chakras

by Bart Bull
(Published in SPIN)

You only get one guess who Nina Hagen's favorite star is. This is her loft (if the pot on the stove is any indication, we're all going to be having boiled potatoes a little later), and the walls are covered with souvenirs from the brilliant international career of someone truly special to Nina. You know — posters and photos and paintings of the really special people, icons of inspirational heroes, photos of lovers near the bed, pictures of dear friends taped to the refrigerator next to the kids' current fingerpainting triumphs. And here at Nina's place – her space – right in the heart of downtown Los Angeles' struggling but brave post-industrial art-loft district, the walls are plastered with posters and paintings and photos of Nina Hagen.

Here's a poster from a concert last summer in Germany – Nina as a pink-haired Jayne Mansfield in bazooming flashbulb ecstasy, from the cover of her latest album, Nina Hagen in Ekstasy. Up by the stairway is one from another show a few years back — Nina as Batgirl, pointed ears and all. Over there, an earlier shot, from the cover of her first American record — Nina in a black leather jacket with "Mein Kampf" stenciled over the pocket, a gilded coronet atop her head, and her lips painted into the elaborate exaggerated cupid's-bow kissyface of a Hamburg whore.

Up there, near where she's sitting meditating, the cover of her 1983 album Fearless is pinned — Nina hieroglyphing her limbs in danceclub semaphores, a gold tinsel Cleopatra wig, a black bra set strikingly against skin white and pasty enough to do the Pillsbury Doughboy proud, with a couple of graphic-arts arrows aimed at her image just so nobody misses the point. The other side of the album shows her as an ectoplasmic TV vision — Botticelli's Venus with bad reception — being sucked up into a flying saucer, but the biggest picture of Nina Hagen in the whole joint is a six-by-six-foot painting modeled after the cover of her Nunsexmonkrock album. It may be the single most restrained picture on any of her records, or on any of her walls. It may well be the most restrained Nina Hagen picture in existence. No startled eyebrows akimbo, no Little Egypt eyeliner, no Catwoman cape'n'cowl ensemble, no Mata Hari harem pants, no stiletto heels — just a humble woman in a Virgin Mary veil, her lips a little less bee-stung than usual, her look calm and placid, her baby Cosma Shiva in her arms. Madonna (not that one) und child. Except that in the painting's version of the record cover, Cosma Shiva is no longer the sweetly bewildered babe in arms with a built-on halo. Instead, the artist has transformed the swaddled infant into a maniacal Mad magazine cartoon baby with bulging eyeballs and dangerous grinning teeth. Halo's still there though.

Nina doesn't want anyone shooting photos of Cosma Shiva — it's OK if they take pictures of Nina herself up on the meditation pad but she's — Wait! Hold it! We're all going outside, all of us, up to the roof. All 25 or 30 of us, we're going to file through the kitchen, past the potatoes, up the stairs and out onto the rooftop. But she wants us all to be careful going out there, because we're each going to have to scrunch past the building's main electrical panel box to get out the door to the roof and she'd hate to have any of her flock get sent heavenward with a crisp crackle and a slender puff of smoke, hapless insects gotcha-ed by a bug-zapper. "There is this force," she explains, queen bee addressing a small troop of dim but willing drones, "EEE-lek-TRRI-I-I-zity! Do not touch it! So don't die and be very concentrating when you are crossing the exit of that roof." She'll join us there once she's checked the potatoes.


Nasrudin said...

Oh, and the near-genius Kahlo has added a Nina Hagen video that makes all the sense it should....hier.

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