MiniMan: A backpack-mounted playa Puppet
7-15-2006: MiniMan vs Mantis: A Match of Mortal Combat. Video of
round #2 by gertiok at:
Discovery Times Channel has a show called Only In America that did a
feature on Burning Man. Extra special thanks to Chromatest for
slicing out the good bits of Kernul Killbuck and MiniMan that you can
Outstanding photos by Tony Tohono.
Click here to see more of his work.
MiniMan at Kamp Apokiliptika
Burning Man 2005
Photos by Bill Kositzky
at the Nevada Museum of Art with Controlled Burn and the Big Giant Head:
Printed in the Black Rock Beacon September 4, 2005:
by Tony Tohono
One of the main points Burning Man hopes to encourage is to take what
we have experienced in Black Rock City, and return with it to the
Default World. In essence, to carry the passions, the feelings,
and the overall acceptance of others we have here, and take that to
all places near and far.
To pay homage to this ideal, Camp Apokiliptika decided to build a
symbolic icon. After serious consideration between camp founder
Kernul Killbuck and No. 1 acolyte, Jellyfish, the Spawn of Burning Man
came into being. The Spawn is a 12-foot-plus recreation, the
progeny, if you will, of the real Man. Miniman is mounted on a
backpack and becomes an extension of his handler's movements.
Though conceived by Jellyfish, Jelly insists Miniman is the creation
of Larry Harvey, as it is made in the image of the original Burning
The moment of truth arrived on Tuesday. The raising of the Spawn
took place just after sunset in the camp, and then Miniman walked down
to Center Camp where his pilgrimage to visit the Man began.
Supporters and followers joined the fray, and the journey gained
momentum every step of the way. Upon arriving at the foot of the
Man, the followers started chanting, "Papa Papa Papa!" Miniman called
out for acknowledgment.
Not a sound, nor a response came from the Man, and the procession
moved to make five full revolutions around the father before again
coming to rest. This time the result was entirely different, as
the man blinked off the red lights, and then the green, going dark for
a full three seconds, and for the first time in 20 years the Man
acknowledged an offspring.
Click here for MiniMan's Slab Raising Ceremony
event at Burning Man
Afterwards, he will make his
Pilgrimage to Papa and "Meet the Man"
MiniMan at the San Francisco Burning Man Decompression After-Event.
Pictured on left with proud parents Mister Jellyfish and Kernul
Killbuck and on right with Burning Man Art Curator, Lady Bee.
Thanks for the photos, Lady.
June 12, 2005:
Along with many of our DPW volunteers, MiniMan also got some
notoriety today in the San Francisco Chronicle. Today's Sunday
edition if you want to pick up a copy
. Here's the picture:
and here's the story:
June 10, 2005: Precious little time to work on him now due to all the
work and family summer obligations. Makes me glad we got him so
near completion early in the year. Still more finishing touches
would be nice. This just in from Tony, a creative contributor of
the Earth Guardians:
Click here for a cool 5 meg movie of MiniMan at
night on the playa during DPW volunteer weekend.
If you have a super fast connection or want to grab a snack
while it loads,
here for the 12 megger.
May 21, 2005: Field test completed last week during some volunteer
work with Burning Man's Department of Public Works. All is well,
and our little guy stood up to windstorm and rain. When you look
at the original concept image at the top of the page, and the poster
below it with live playa activity, you can see we have come pretty
close to our mark.
Click here for a MiniMovie.
One thing I learned as we approached some of the campers and
volunteers is that he can be a little intrusive. Some people
that were relaxing by the camp fires reacted like they were approached
by an uninvited mime. I can tell that many will say "Hey, let's
burn the man" so Killbuck suggested we re-install the flash paper
cannons so we can demo them and say "Burn who?". The following
evening, We marched him out into the open playa, and that's where he
really came to life. It was fun to turn off the lighting and
then re-appear elsewhere in the night. Mission accomplished...
April 30, 2005: The Kernul and I almost
hyperventilated with joy as we launched MiniMan on the 300 people at
the Skoosh Recompression Party in Reno last night. Revelers were
shrieking with glee and also loved the close interaction with
Killbuck's MR-1 robot. I wish you could have seen the look on the
Kernul's face when he was operating, and I must have looked the same
I hope somebody sends us the pictures they took! If so we'll post them
here. All resounded that MiniMan will be a big hit on the playa and we
will have to make it a point to keep him lit up when reclying at our
camp as it will make Apokiliptika even more of a "must see" of Burning
People loved it when we bent him forward to touch "hands" with them,
and were surprised becuase it looks so heavy. One lovely woman told me
I must be very strong "Why yes... yes I am" I lied. It was fun to hand
one of the control rods to a person to let them waive an arm around.
It was raining lightly but it was no problem outside until even small
gusts of wind tried to knock me down. The party was inside a warehouse
so Killbuck braved the wiring and light fixtures and we got him inside
to dance with the band.
Yes I love this man of mine.
April 17, 2005: A good day at the slab with the Kernel who brought his
brain sculpture today- see picture below or
here for mini-brain movie. He joked that we could
interchange it with a sculpted pile of dog mess and call him "shit for
brains". Added brain rotation motor, shoulder spikes, el wire to
the rest of head and top of leg until I ran out but when I get a few
more feet that will be it for el wire on three inverters. His
head was falling off so we strengthened that with more corrugated
plastic. Should be ready in time for a trial crash of the Skoosh
party here in Reno at the end of the month. K
can see by the pictures below, the ribs look outstanding. The head
and arms are too much load for just one inverter so I will have to
score yet another. I used the box from the automatic soap dispenser
for controls, battery, and inverters and will mount it on the backpack
frame for now. When we glued the knee joint on we did it sideways,
that's why the missing leg until I get it fixed and strung with el
April 16, 2005: Thanks to Mike G. at Coolight West we got our shipment
of El wire to complete the ribcage today. He give valuable
advice and always takes an interest in our weird projects.
April 4, 2005: Killbuck's artistry provokes a thought or two:
March 19, 2005: El wire applied to pelvic spires and sternum curve:
Jason is working on the live and recorded music he will play at the
Slab Raising Ceremony (Playa Tuesday, 7:00 PM, Kamp Apokiliptika).
Click here for a big streaming sample of Jason's
Click here for what he has composed for the
March 12, 2005: Explosive progress at the slab! No longer
will MiniMan's head want for his body. Their communion was
celebrated today with great relish by Kernel Killbuck and Jellyfish.
Click the pics below and click to watch
"Wow, I' still in shock that so much was
accomplished yesterday. The hard stuff is done, now it's the endless
tinkering with finishing, working out the bugs and refining some
design." -Kernel Killbuck
Sternum, ribs, hips fabricated, installed and painted
Neck built out of plastic sewer pipe and head attached
Knees covered with flexible dryer vent
Two panels of head detailed with El Wire and strobe light inside.
We also discovered that the operator can sit down on a backless chair,
but will likely need help getting up from the handler. Strobe
light is perhaps too bright, with the installation of the spinning
brain, that may be better as reflective light. More inverters
needed for the El Wire because just the addition of more double-core
on the head dimmed it all quite a bit. Flash paper cannon in arm
pales in comparison to the overall light of the construct.
Another idea is to install a 12 volt car vacuum cleaner in the
backpack and have it suck or blow through one of the arm tubes as to
mess up people's hair. We are getting to the point now where
weight is a concern so this may be the end of "new ideas" like that.
Killbuck's control rod connection and recent observations:
3-6-2005: Mini Man has been on my
mind for some part of the day. It is hard to relate the
concentration such a banal bit of pipe and plastic can impose on the
imagination... but I keep seeing the "being" stroll, walk and be
essentially a person, waiting to be complete. The
Way of the Miniman... such as it is.
The head sits there, asplay on the table
top... seeming to say- "where is my body? When will I connect?" I
am consigned to the standard answer- "patience my friend, all in
good time." He slants off with a disappointed angle seeming to say,
"well, if I must."
It must be frustrating for a
disconnected, emerging entity to be separated, head from body like
"Soon" I say, "will your vessel be
adjoined and then you will be partially whole..." but this scarcely
slacks the neediness of this soon to be...-- oh, who can say what he
will call himself.
3/5/2005 Lots of progress from a solo work day. Bummed
that Kernel Killbuck could not join me at the slab today and the
subsequent joy of the night walk-about. All the best to you and
In the pictures below, you can see the blue-green el wire on one arm
and leg, and I'm using ski poles with tent poles taped to them and
they want to splay outward... we'll have to think on that. Also
Killbuck told me he invented a perfect hinge for where it connects to
the arm of puppet.. The handicap ankle clips have a make-shift
double universal joint, but a ball joint of some kind may be better.
They're tuff to take on and off too. There was something poking
the back of my shoulders on the backpack frame.
The overall balance and range of motion is nice and you can turn
quickly and walk at a pretty good clip. Here's a link to a movie
so you get an idea of the night look:
My nine year old likes it. A five year old was intrigued but a
little scared, and an observer said it gives new meaning to the phrase
"pecker head". Here's some photos:
Made great strides on the limbs. Three
are glued, finished, and ready to apply silver Mylar to bones and
trim around discs. I learned that paint on the inside of the rings
had to be sanded off with a Dremel tool so they would still slide
over the PVC pipe. I screwed up the measurements on the first
of the arms and I had to add another disc to both so they now taper
all the way down to three inch diameter. Still looks cool, and
the spacing is more consistent with the legs. I ran some
string through some holes so you could see the effect below of the
where the el wire will run along the edges.
2/27/2005: Painted discs and collars:
2/26/2005: I've got all the parts for the limbs cut and
ready to paint with a fusion flat black paint so we can cover the
"bones" with silver Mylar when the Kernel and I meet this Saturday
for an intense session at the slab. Thanks to him for the head
construction pictured below:
2-13-2005: A productive day at the slab today. As you can see,
Killbuck's calculated dimensions of the disks look great. I kept
screwing up on the ellipse at the hip until I learned to lay it out
with good old geometry from:
will also notice a difference between the sides of the torso where I
am attempting to use 1/2" PVC pipe instead of 3/4" for a more
slender bend without supplementing it. The fiberglass spine gives
it so much strength that we should be OK there.
double universal joints at the knees look a little slouchy, could we
do just a single joint there or could you gussy them up to look less
out of joint? Speaking of that, I forgot to make one for the ankle
clip when I did this... ouch! That will be my next priority.
your eye out for ski poles after the season as I think we could
join them together cheaply for better, less yielding control rods.
You can see my fiberglass rods bending like a reed in the wind.
2/12/2005: Thanks to Chip for his advice on cutting off the ends of
the PVC fittings to make little rings to slide and glue in place to
hold the discs in place rather than all the previous joints and
weight. Will paint the little guys black, which should look good
against the Mylar and the "bones". It's hard to find good rigid
corrugated plastic that is not expensive or with shipping cost that is
1/24/2005: Made an arm out of 1" PVC pipe and it was much too heavy.
Switched to 3/4" with couplers that hold the disks in place.
Pretty rigid too. Alternated the direction of the corrugation so
the el wire will at least lend a little support. It's nice to
work with PVC because it's so inexpensive that you can experiment all
you want before fabrication.
We might use an old 12 volt strobe light for under the brain.
Gotta watch the weight.
1-17-2005: Nice to finally meet with Kernel Killbuck and his friend
today (no playa name yet). Lots of great ideas flying around and
good energy. He tried on the puppet for size and I realized just
how cool this thing will be to interact with. Lots of the ideas
are coming together. I'm getting started on building the
appendages and the Kernel will take on the head construction. A
great idea was submitted by Desert Rat to reveal the spinning brain
within the head using... get this... mini-blinds!
Many have inquired what will be featured in the pelvic region of
MiniMan. Well, actually an anatomically correct microphone facing outward and upward for the ultimate interaction. It is running through some vocoder/robotic-voice-changer circuitry and up through a hacked megaphone in MiniMan's chest. "Talk like THE MAN, baby!".
for an MP3 audio sample of what it will do
the idea of the collapsing head from the top view. Revealed
brain not pictured:
Ok, we need a slab. Not just to lay the man down and work on,
but a place from which he can arise and become the
"I". En Vivo. Time to make some more space in
the garage, or we're going to need to climb him like a telephone pole.
Massive snowstorm here in Sparks, Nevada. Lots of time to plot
and experiment. We decided on black with silver trim for the
colors, rather NASA looking for the daytime experience. Cross
support raised so it does not bang heads. Arm movement will be
slightly limited using the angle of the cut on a pipe-within-pipe
shoulder joint so they don't blow backwards. Peek-a-boo spinning brain
revealed by dropping face panels? Hand brake control considered
for that. Spinning provided by salvaged restaurant bathroom deodorant
dispenser motor with a carbon fiber rod up through the center
support. Operator's face may be hidden in artistry mask also by
Killbuck. Control rod rest holders and drink holder on front
belt. Can't forget a place for the Camel Back bladder for
operator's constant hydration on the playa. PVC pipe double
universal joint example below. The lower cuts on the knee pipe
prevent the joint from over-extending. Click
here for mini-movie
Fiberglass center support installed with U-bolt at bottom.
entering his "Da Vinci Period".
7, 2005: Backpack arrived from Ebay. Pretty filthy but all we
really need is the frame and a small bag on the back. 1"
PVC pipes slide nicely over the top support tubes, extra bracing
needed to reduce shear. How do we attach the closet flange hinge
at the "hip" to the top of the frame and pipe? Should
it be built to come apart easily so the operator can put on the
backpack first and helpers could then slide on MiniMan and snap the
January 6, 2005: Thanks to the inspiring text from the Burning Man
which THE MAN will turn on it's own axis, the following idea is
of animating the head with complicated strings attached to the
operators helmet, we simply give "head spins" as a
delightfully interactive feature that can be turned on and off. Thanks
to drummer Ben for suggesting a small gyroscope in the middle of the
frame might help with balance, and Dragonfly Jafe for the idea of
counterbalancing the limbs with springs as not to tire out the
4, 2005: The Kernel is right. Hip joints should be single
axis so they don't splay outward like a saddle-sore cowpolk.
Here's a mini MPG movie of a joint using a PVS closet flange held fast
in a vice: Click
the brightness of the new double-core el wire on the left of the
3, 2005: Two days before tickets go on sale and we are getting
excited. Universal or ball joints will be better for the neck,
arms, and hips. We're playing with gate hinges for the two dimensional
movement of the knees. Playing with the big 4 1/2 inch PVS pipe is
waking us up to the weight challenges. Here's an idea that may
be a little more fragile, but lighter and more resembling the
structure of THE MAN using companion
flanges to support the el wire in acrylic tubes:
2, 2005: Inspired by Kraftwerk music, the costume could be very
interactive if a vocoder
(robotic voice changer) and microphone or combined
unit allowed people to walk up and "talk like The
Man". I don't think we could get around the fact that
the microphone will be at the pelvic level of the puppet, maybe
mounted with a gooseneck from the chest of the operator and wrapped in
red el wire so people will just walk up to it and be surprised to hear
their voice all morphed from above.
found that clear plastic pvc pipe costs 10x what normal pipe does, so
I did what most artists do... I compromised! Went down and got a
bunch of different sizes, lengths, and fittings of black abs
pipe. More el wire required because it won't shine through the
plastic, but that would happen to the clear pipe anyway once it's
covered with playa dust.
speaker may need to be painted black and concealed in the chest of THE
MAN so it is not as top-heavy and the head movement is not encumbered.
Years Eve, 2004: Due to huge snow storm, Kernel Killbuck and I could
not get together, so we had a long talk on the phone about masks and
costumes. We agreed that we had never seen an actual "The
Man" costume. He sent me his backpack frame idea above, and
I did the less skilled sketch below.
head control rods would facilitate the Man head to move in tandem with
that of the operator.