Revisiting 13thFloor

18 years after its making I revisit the interactive documentary 13thFloor wearing the glasses I wear now.


In 2004, German writer Kolja Mensing and media artist Florian Thalhofer spent 31 days in Grohner Düne, a 1970s social housing complex on the outskirts of Bremen that is home to 1,600 people.

Media scientist Bernhard Dotzler called 13terStock an “interactive home movie”.
and attested “a convincing answer on how to show today’s reality has been found by the film”.

Technology and structure

13terStock was originally built with Korsakow 3, a version that only allowed one interface for the whole film. Later, 13terStock was rebuilt and different interface layouts were added. The keywords are thematic: There are five main topics “family”, “money”, “home”, “war”, “rules” and a number of subtopics for each of the main topics.

There is also a laypot (“birdseye view”) which serves to give a feeling of overview.

Pictorial description of the intro scene

It starts quite abruptly, when one looks out of a slight overhead view onto the desk of a roughly 50-year-old man, whom one observes making a short but complete telephone call, hanging up and saying quite noncharlant that he is a Social Democrat. Then a large white building complex can be seen from a distance. It is obviously the apartment complex that is the subject of this film.

The next shots are now closer to the object, you look from above into the courtyard of the building complex. The camera shakes, and where there were windows a moment ago, black areas now appear on the image, on which small and barely legible terms are written that could also be catchwords or headlines. The black tiles remain, while the image of the camera under the black rectangles shows impressions of the inside, of the life behind the scenery and no longer the view from the outside on the Grohner Düne. The black tiles are hyperlinks an serve as windows into the house and the lives of its inhabitants. While in the background the at that time hip Berlin band “Teans Team” sings also quite noncharlant “Jeder Tag wunderbar“ – “Every day wonderful”.

Disclaimer of the pictorial description

I designed the opening scene of the work described above 18 years ago. Today, I look at it through the perspective of pictorial description. The method of pictorial description was not accessible to me at that time, because I deeply despised this method, which I had become acquainted with in art classes at school, because I understood this technique to be cold and lacking in emotion, and in fact I still see it as such. The method of pictorial description is not about feeling, it is instead about describing how feeling is described.

“Every day wonderful” was my alsolute favorite song at the time and that’s the only reason I chose it. Not because, as I realize today, it precisely frames what the perspective of this work is about. To show the, one could say, beautiful, livable, special and thus interesting. Without making oneself mean with the protagonists of the film and without putting oneself above the protagonists. They are different from us and this is stated repeatedly in the work.

“Without making oneself mean with the protagonists and without putting oneself above them”

I suspect that we were only able to achieve this feat because we were not conscious in the making, because if we had been conscious, it would have put us above the protagonists, who apparently did not have this media consciousness either.

The author becomes visible as the point of perspective in a mediated reality

From the very beginning, we have interwoven the object of our investigation with the personal horizon of our experience. This starts already with one of the first diary entries, when Kolja Mensing describes 18 year ago Florian’s apartment and compares it with Grohner Düne:

“Florian’s Berlin apartment is in a discreet new building from the nineties, more or less next to the Ministry of Economics and Labor and thus not far from the so-called government district.” Kolja wonders if the same fortune as Grohner Düne could happen to Florian’s building complex. “After all, just like many other large housing estates, Grohner Düne was once a sought-after destination for the aspiring middle classes in the early seventies – and back then it didn’t even take ten years for the paradise for young families to become a temporary camp on the outskirts of the city for asylum seekers, guest workers and social losers with German passports.”

We have described Grohner Düne from our perspective. And by describing ourselves, the audience has the opportunity to understand the authors’ perspective and correct for it accordingly. Just like I can do now even as the former author when I calculate my younger self out of the perception process of mediated reality.

And whoosh, I look at myself from the outside. And this probably also happens to a viewer who is not also an author, although the effect is probably weaker.

Die Zeit wrote: “one of these tracks simply shows the images recorded by the video surveillance cameras in the Grohner Düne. Another uses a television reportage that reported on the project of the two filmmakers. So they become part of their own work, which in turn is part of other image systems.”

Good morning

This morning I woke up and the world was still there. I was somewhat surprised, because the dream that preceded it did not suggest such an assumption.

So or similarly it goes to me every day and so or similarly it probably goes to everyone every day. We recognize the day by the continuity, by the fact that the day continues on what is already known to us from the past. The bed we wake up in is the bed we fell asleep in.

Conversely, we find it difficult to recognize the dream by its lack of continuity. The dream is simply there, or we fall into the reality of the dream without getting to the realization of the dream for being a dream.

Science knows different theories why we dream and this means nothing else than that we do not know why we dream. We do not even know why we sleep and there are even thinkers who wonder if the reality we are in during the day is actually the right one.

Good morning and have a wonderful week!

Guten Morgen

Heute bin ich aufgewacht und die Welt war noch da. Ich war einigermaßen erstaunt, denn der Traum, der dem voranging legte eine solche Vermutung nicht nahe.

So oder ähnlich geht es mir jeden Tag und so oder ähnlich ergeht es wohl jeder und jedem jeden Tag. Wir erkennen den Tag an der Kontinuität, daran, dass der Tag an dem fortsetzt, was uns bereits aus der Vergangenheit bekannt ist. Das Bett in dem wir aufwachen ist das Bett in dem wir eingeschlafen sind.

Umgekehrt, den Traum an der fehlenden Kontinuität zu erkennen fällt uns hingegen schwer. Der Traum ist einfach da, oder wir fallen hinein in die Realität des Traums ohne dem Traum für sein Traum sein auf die Schliche zu kommen.

Die Wissenschaft kennt verschiedene Theorien warum wir träumen und das heißt nichts anderes, als dass wir nicht wissen, warum wir träumen. Wir wissen noch nicht einmal warum wir schlafen und es gibt sogar Denker, die sich fragen, ob die Realität, in der wir uns tagsüber befinden eigentlich die richtige ist.

Guten Morgen und eine schöne Woche!

My opinion about opinion

Opinion usually has something to do with level of knowledge, and the level of knowledge can actually always improve. Probably it is rather the rule, than the exception, that opinion changes, if knowledge rises. The further one looks into the past (be it the personal one or the one of mankind) the rarer become there, to all appearances, the exceptions.

So what is there to give on opinion? – Probably not too much.

If one then still considers, how much opinion upsets, and not only emotional energy requires, which then cannot be used any more to extend knowledge (by arguing, for example, instead of asking), I can’t help but think: One should leave opinion be, where it is only possible. And when it is not possible – because sometimes you need an opinion – it is hopefully wiser, when you have not wasted so much energy to have an opinion about everything.

Meine Meinung zu Meinung

Meinung hat meist etwas mit Wissensstand zu tun und der Wissensstand kann sich eigentlich immer verbessern. Vermutlich ist es eher die Regel, als die Ausnahme, dass sich Meinung ändert, wenn das Wissen steigt. Je weiter man in die Vergangenheit schaut (sei es die persönliche oder die der Menschheit) desto rarer werde da, allem Anschein nach, die Ausnahmen.

Was ist also auf Meinung zu geben? – Wohl nicht allzu viel.

Wenn man dann noch bedenkt, wie sehr Meinung aufregt, nicht nur emotionale Energie kostet, die sich dann nicht mehr einsetzen lässt um Wissen zu erweitern (indem man z.B. argumentiert, statt zu fragen) komme ich nicht umhin zu denken: Man sollte die Meinung sein lassen, wo es nur geht. Und wenn es nicht geht – denn manchmal braucht man eine Meinung – ist sie hoffentlich klüger, wenn man nicht so viel Energie verschwendet hat, zu allem eine Meinung zu haben.

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