Big TV Mutant Vehicle Approved by Department of Mutant Vehicles!

The Big TV is ready to project movies and other content on the screen.

As Homer Simpson says, ‘Mmmmmm Television… teacher, mother, secret lover.’

We too seek to homage and subvert this aspect of western society’s obsession, and at times, revulsion for television with the “TMSL Super Deluxe Model 2014,” a 13.5′ x 10′ x 26′ long mobile stage in the shape of a 1974 Zenith console TV.

And our application has been approved by the Department of Mutant Vehicles for on playa driving at Burning Man 2014!

TMSL is a 26′ mobile Performance stage, enclosed and framed to recreate the appearance of a 1974 Zenith console television, where we have musicians and poets or a small talk and game show format of random and scheduled activities.


The Big TV showed a silent film with live djs at LA Decompression in downtown October 2013.

As Rocket Rosie says “BE THE CONTENT.”

Performances, interviews, and TV shows at Burning Man will be held on the open playa as well as in our theme camp, the Camp of the Space Wanderer which we have requested to be near the Artery to facilitate hosting artists to speak about their work on the Big TV.

Let us know how YOU would like to PARTICIPATE! Do you want to be interviewed? Perform? Interview? Host a show? Be part of a show? Like Big TV Set on facebook and let us know there! You can also leave a comment here about what YOU would like to DO!

Be the Content
Be the Content

With the screen closed, it is a projection TV; a second level offers a lounge for passengers and sightseeing.

Abel Garcia performs on the Big TV at Lucidity

This is not sTeVe’s Knauff’s first art car mutant vehicle for Burning Man: sTeVe helped with two art cars in the way back era before mutant modifications were required, notably the Volvo De Muerto by MB Hanrahan, from 2003 and seen briefly in the film Burning Man Beyond Black Rock. In 2010, sTeVe was the sole creator and owner of the on playa day and night licensed METROPOLIS VS THE APOCALYPSE A 24′ tall tower powered by a 1985 VW GTI.. In 2011, his mutant vehicle was approved but didn’t make to the playa; in 2013, the Cargo Cult version of the TMSL was approved and drove on playa with day and night permits.

Punk rock icon and author Alice Bag reads and performs on the Big TV at Ventura College Earth Day 2014


Built on a Ford RV chassis that has been stripped down to the base frame forming a 19′ flatbed truck, the 7’3″ cab section is left intact for safety of operation and comfort of our designated operator and co-operator. The entire finished 26′ vehicle’s final appearance is that of a 1970’s console TV. The 26′ ‘RV CLASS’ of THE BIG TV is road tested and in its CARGO CULT version has appeared on Playa 2013, LA DECOMPRESSION 2013, Lucidity Festival 2014.

The only visible aspect of a street vehicle is a sliver of the bottom of the tires.

We have welded a Haddad steel trailer frame over the original Ford frame to elevate, lengthen and strengthen the original vehicle. Then we built a sturdy 3/4″ ply deck on the lower level for a ‘TV Talk Show’ stage. There is an upper deck with a small stage for a band or small theatrical presentations and room for up to 20 participants/ passengers to appear on ‘The sTeVe Show’. The upper deck is supported by 3″ tube steel posts and further framed by lateral supports welded to the Haddad frame, again welded to the Ford frame. The upper deck is covered in 3/4 “ ply, glued and screwed. There is a three foot tall safely secured hand rail all around.

On site, the freeway safe TMSL is transformed with non-structural, removable flat wall sections which finish the exterior shell of the mobile TV stage. These are made of thicker gage metal studs skinned with glued and screwed ½” struct 1 ply. We attach light wooden details forming the familiar icon of the Big TV such as the frame around the projection screen.. The screen is made of easily slidable cloth on a metal rod that opens or closes as desired.

Art Predator Gwendolyn Alley interviews author and DJ Tony Fletcher here with his son on guitar.


Our idea of radical illumination this year is more amplified than last year and begins once again with the exterior lines illuminated with discrete rope lights that illuminate our entire structure without distraction. Under the entire vehicle of the Big TV, just above the Playa will be brighter lights casting light of varying colors all around the vehicle on the ground. We have more of those for this year. Low voltage LED lights all around run off our battery system, which we hope to power by solar panels.

On DVD projection mode with our interior rear screen projection of the TV screen will be casting light, last year the DMV crew was at times  captivated by a Monty Python film as we rolled through the inspection line.

On performance mode our interior set will be brightly illuminated, as will the ground level steps and the stairway leading up to the second level.

Finally, our upper deck will always have lights directed on the deck and some low level rope lights around the hand railing and along the floor where the hand rail meets the deck. When needed, we will also have additional safety lights surrounding the vehicle along the top of the deck railing aimed down and out at a slight angle. Front, sides, rear, individually or all at once we can bring some daylight to the night if we need to.

As vehicles with street legal headlights are slightly less safe by their blinding light, when we need increased forward illumination we would activate our surround lights mounted on the top of the handrailing aimed downward but not blind oncoming vehicles and or pedestrians. We will also have factory supplied  headlights covered with gels for some more Playa friendly lighting. We keep the brake lights active on the Playa but connect a second lower set so they light the ground more.

Art Predator aka Gwendolyn Alley performs poetry at LA Decompression 2013 on the Big TV.


The primary experience we intend to create is spontaneous interactivity which is identical to a major aspect of what we practice in the so called art world where, Steve Knauff, as  sTeVe, stages small art performances that often engage much or all of the audience as participants and the handing out of gifts. With collaborating artist Rocket Rosie, we have been using both the original 2011 Playa Model TMSL, only 16′ long, with an 8 ‘ frame, and the LARGER 2013/now 2014 MODEL TMSL as a performance stage that, as seen in the online photos, an interview and two different game show formats. We create an extra interactive experience, sometimes with the interview format and others with a  ‘Price is right” game show style trading for mystery prizes and by giving out rewards to everyone present, even non participants, like sTeVe designed and manufactured artist buttons. The potential prizes of small artworks for extra enthusiasm to further entice a select few bolder participants to come on stage to interact further for yet more reward.  A major thread of our art is action for reward, so we propose to develop that further on the Playa with a return of the TMSL/ The BIG TV, with close to a ten foot framed lower stage will enable a larger interactive experience. We will also give away Playa specific gifts and even some new special prizes.

As for the technological device that is TV, it obviously has long been a vehicle of our collective subconsciousness. In our media obsessed society it is continuously projecting the cult-ish desires and dreams of the good the bad and the indifferent. It is used to sell, to enlighten and distract from anything and everything. It informs us on rare occasions like natural disasters of what we need in an emergency but more often it merely fills the void in so many empty lives.

Our lead designer likes to think of the BIG TV as a mobile stage and can be seen to paraphrase the classic 60’s line, ‘IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE NEWS, GO OUT AND MAKE SOME OF YOUR OWN’.

Since 1991, long before the YouTube he has, as sTeVe, an artist with a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and MFA from UCLA, been presenting small art performances and sculptural installations that ridicule our cultural obsession with TV. Attempting to enlighten viewers and interactive participants with regurgitated fragments of broadcast TV from the popular culture edited in with self produced content and live action video from willing and occasionally unaware or unintended participants that

TV is itself a form of reality because Reality WAS MADE FOR TELEVISION.


EVERYONE, even many ardent haters of television ultimately would like their message or themselves seen on TV… AND as we liked to think last year’s Cargo Cult was similarly appropriate due to the complex nature between the early era technological promise of television vs the reality of present day vacuous programing options and the resultant mind numbing waste of time. Depending on one’s point of view, either it contributes to the present day Cargo Cult that is Christian-centric America and it is both alive and well or, it is a corrupt device brainwashing the unenlightened masses and is dying under the onslaught of the internet. However, it too presents false hopes of performing for a future reward, believe in the gods of consumerism and they will provide food and comfort. Buy the right products, smell nice, take out the grey and take this pill to loose weight and sex and prosperity will come your way with extra clean and a new and improved hair line!

There is simultaneous desire and disdain for television, loathed and loved it is merely a tool, a vehicle for transmiting a message of transformation or a means of corporate control.

For Caravansary we like to think it is appropriate by the nature of the traveling performers, spoken word and theatrical personalities. We travel out to people waiting for something to happen, like last years Friday night before Russian burn, we pulled up early and after a crowd was gathering for them, I yelled out we were a “TV SHOW IN SEARCH OF AN AUDIENCE”… people turned around and we had an audience and a couple of people jumped up on stage as well for a 10 minute ‘show’.

By bringing the interactive mobile TV stage to the playa, we can not only just provide generic transportation to Playa Participants, as an action for reward, if they come on the show and tell a joke, a story, a film clip off their camera, sing a song and contribute a live interactive moment on the Playa, their reward of a ride is enhanced creatively in that the sum is greater than the parts. They are a part of our TV reality and it is like the rest of Burning Man, a reality of our making. And finally if approved we would also gladly provide transportation on the Artery Tour.


Last year, when building the TMSL model 2013, and after stripping off the old Ford RV structure, we decided to weld on a heavy duty 19′ Haddad trailer frame to add length and substantive structure to the lower deck. Everything we have added on thus far is welded to this enhanced frame. One enters the first level by the original factory metal stairs, and they lead to the second level by a larger set of metal stairs with a smooth steel tube stock hand railing. The second level is surrounded by standard building code 36″ wooden railing with a smooth wood handrail all around. The deck is welded shelving steel and filled with 2×4’s on 12″ center and skinned with 3/4″ ply.

The cosmetic details that form the Big sTeVe Stage are made of a light wood and thin gage metal frames on removable panels for travel. Some of them are designed to be open and covered in painted shade cloth to allow wind passage. Our on board generator runs off the vehicle’s factory fuel tanks, but is louder than the Honda, so we will use it as backup and will carry one additional 5 gal plastic vehicle code approved fuel container on board in a special vented hatch next to the original vehicle fuel port.

Our electrical system is both factory and enhanced for the lighting and humble 300 watt, marine battery powered sound system. Of the added on wiring we have used both DC and some AC devices powered thru converters but most of it is DC. We hope some of our lighting this year will be solar enhanced if not entirely powered by solar. My goal for the first time in five mutant vehicle requests is to not only have the lights but the music and speaking mics powered off solar…. but as of this writing, it looks like we will have two panels for sure that should at least power the lights. Off course the safety lights will be powered off the vehicle’s ford power plant, with the generator as a backup.

All of it is extra carefully grounded and sealed from shorting in both automotive and some in PVC wet location grey electrical conduit.

For operational safety the interior of the cab is left as factory as possible and will be entirely covered by the removable panels that form the Big sTeVe  set and like last year’s 2013 model, have clear views forward and out the driver side. The passenger side is looked out for by our ‘co-pilot’ and the rear will be over seen by our crew as mentioned in the operating procedures. The second level immediately above the cab is for crew only and is more of a forward observation platform to assist in navigation especially in crowded moments like after the big burn nights and reduced visibility moments but less than a full whiteout. It is intended to be built in a similar style as the rest of the existing frame but also removable for travel, this vehicle will be driven to the Playa.

When traveling on the Playa it would be our intent to have the lower deck occupants seated and the upper level standing. We have a design for a partial wrap around bench on part of the second level but have not decided completely if it inhibits more passengers. Either way the lower seats and tables or any other equipment associated with the sTeVe show will be bolted down securely. The second stage equipment with be tied down with ratchet straps and bungee cords to movable but screwed and or bolted points of contact.

The brakes are in good working. The load capacity is listed for approximately 11,000 pounds and, if 30 or so people averaging 200 pounds are on board, even with the added materials for mutation, we are easily be under the maximum.

We have fire extinguishers every six feet inside the stage area and up on the deck. We have an emergency first aid kit by the back door.


When we first drove on the Playa way back in 2000, before the Mutant Vehicle era, with our little painted Art Cars, such concerns as unruly passengers or the crowded reality of the present never crossed our minds. By the time of the Metropolis Vs Apocalypse (24′ tall tower) vehicle from 2010, our operating procedure was to move as slow as possible. Our target speed is more like 3 miles an hour. Our starting procedure was and would continue to be a coordinated effort of our entire crew. With the larger  TMSL Deluxe model 2013, and now the Super Deluxe Model 2014, we will have an even greater reliance on a slightly larger crew and hope to travel/idel along more like 2 miles an hour. Last year this worked out great as bicyclists and a few fast walking pedestrians could watch the TV on projection mode as we idled on out to the deep Playa in the evenings.

Last year we shocked when one of the DMV processing helpers asked us if we were taking on any and all random passengers. I was like, well, of course up to our limit…. And she said that was good because there was a trend of large mutant vehicles bringing just for their own camp mates and not taking on random passengers or not letting on plainly dressed or shall we say… less costumed and colorful or of a certain age and lacking sufficient Playa hipness… and we all heard the Playa rumor about a certain large and obviously insanely expensive rig that was only accepting sexy babes in skimpy attire…. we are fairly nerdy ourselves and our only request of any passengers is to have fun and if possible be on our silly fake TV show.

We propose for this year a crew of four just for the mutant vehicle. We currently have confirmed tickets for four and are working on two more possibly. First, we have confirmed a veteran Playa mutant vehicle operator and dedicated driver who is also a certified EMT who also recently underwent disaster drill training, AND with more than a decade clean and sober and a potential co-driver with two years clean. The co-driver will always be looking starboard and aft blindspot with the driver always focusing on port and forward views. We have confirmed a rear stair observer, Maggot Mike, who is the ultimate authority on departure as outlined in enter/exit procedures. Around  six feet three he also doubles as a secondary Talent Coordinator/Bouncer. The all clear signal is sent to the Host, sTeVe Knauff, the primary responsible party on whose vehicle insurance and name is on the title, he will signal to the driver the rear and only entrance is secured and it is safe to engage the drive system and proceed to the targeted destination. Our fourth confirmed ticket holder is Rocket Rosie, stage tech and cat herder who is our primary Talent coordinator and second level observer keeping an eye on the second level deck activities. In addition both she and Maggot Mike will monitor the stair way to the second level for excessively inebriated individuals.  The sixth position would be an upper deck forward observer but obviously, we could operate safely with the core crew of four, we, like NASA, like to aim for over redundancy. We can also randomly recruit friends who do have tickets for an evening or several hours at a time.

Our passenger rules are going to be posted and over our entrance we have a sign reading : welcome to the happiest talk show on Earth. However, and it has only happened once that one of us has witnessed, outlined in our 2011/2013 mutant vehicle applications, of a situation with an unruly individual who almost crashed a mutant vehicle into our theme camp in center camp 2009, we know it can happen again. In that instance the steering controls were open and low to the ground which is in part why we have preferred the factory designed cab covered for mutantcy or sealable vehicle controls separate from the participating public. Our art performances, on and off the Playa are all about “GIFT GIFT GIFT / FREE FREE FREE / FUN FUN FUN” and hope to instill that again if so honored by DMV approval.

On the weeknights leading up to the Fri-Sunday crowd, before entering the vehicle, we would have participant/passengers fill out a small card to be a part of the sTeVe show as a guest and on that card we would know what or how they were going to interact on the set in trade for a ride and or a gift of art made by sTeVe and Rocket Rosie. That card would also act as a filter or patience tester and would constitute an agreement of sorts specifiying the intent of our interactive vehicle and preferred passenger behavior.

Among the rules we intend to post are:  no open flame/ no smoking, no spitting, no whining, and no drunk dogs.

We also hope to be stationary at times entertaining any crowd that might from around the Big TV set’s warm glow, like say the a large art installation or the outer raves, perhaps far out on the darkened Playa.

On the weekend nights we would open it up more and simply keep a head count for maximum operating safety. In the unlikely event of a truly aggravated passenger, we have three large crew members, our host, sTeVe, a 6’2″ former cab driver and part time NYC resident and has talked his way out of many a situation with a calm demeanor and firm words.  Simultaneously, one or several of us would quickly seek out the nearest BRC ranger first, and or other uniformed officers second.

In the unlikely event requiring a rapid evacuation we have the open TV frame of the lower deck and the main stairway but second level passengers could also evacuate over and down the cab of the vehicle. AS in the past, we would propose redundant fire extinguishers in the cab, on the stage, at the rear entrance both inside and out and at each corner of the second level. The cab and rear door extinguishers would also be readily available for any neighboring incident nearby. We would also have two first aid kits with a burn blanket, one in the cab with our EMT driver and one near the rear of the vehicle.


We take this part of the operations planning very seriously. Monday through Thursday night we would have each passenger, particularly on the lower deck, agree to be ‘on the show’ and perform an action for extra reward as outlined earlier. The upper deck passengers perhaps not so much and on Fri-Sunday, even less so. Either way, on entering they will have to agree to a targeted destination, like say The Man, if we are doing the show. If not, then we will stop and start as people may please but in any event, they will be directed up the factory metal steps into the vehicle and either go on the show or climb the second set of stairs to the second level. Most of the time Maggot Mike and Rocket Rosie will be the two crew members  responsible for participant/passengers moving to the second level. The host, sTeVe, on occasion will also compliment this crew procedure. Once the participant/passenger load is reached or the decision to leave is made, we will secure the lower stairs to the first level and Maggot Mike and only him will then notify the host, sTeVe as the responsible party and defacto captain of the ship, and who is almost always on the lower deck/stage, who will then inform the driver all is clear to proceed. Mike will sit partially blocking the entrance/exit and Rocket Rosie will be on the top of the stairs at or just below the second level making sure no one tries to move between levels or exit while the vehicle is in motion. If in the event of the need for emergency stop due to an unruly passenger we will have a discrete ‘51/50′ signal for ALL STOP without excessive breaking from our targeted top speed of 3 mph. And deal with it as necessary. Last year the only minor  situations we had was on Burn Night a guy who hesitated getting down off the very/very top where it was not structurally supported for passengers and he did when I asked a third time…. and a woman later passed out drunk on the upper deck with her body weight on her arm and I was concerned the blood flow was inhibited, we got her up and she soon told us her camp and we drove her home to her camp mates who of course, their random neighbors were friends of ours from the Lucidity Festival.

To exit the vehicle at the designated destination we will coast to a slow stop and reverse the loading procedure.

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