Derek Dadian-Smith

108 Koans for Beginners

108 Koans for Beginners was the exhibition of my MFA thesis, 108 Koans. I gamified the traditional thesis exhibtion to become an analogy for grad school, putting players in the role of artists creating and defending their thesis. Rather than just observing the artwork I had made, they had to recreate it.

When players entered, they were given a card with the number and title of one of the 108 Koans. Just inside the entrance, my parents were giving out slices of pie that my mother had made. If players tried to take a slice of pie at this point, they were told no.

They had to first find my execution of the Koan they had been assigned, displayed on video monitors and on my website. In the space were materials for them to recreate their assigned Koan. Meanwhile, my thesis committee members were observing them. Once the player performed their assigned Koan to the satisfaction of my thesis committee members, they received a graduation cap sticker on their card. Displaying this to my parents earned them a slice of pie.

The rules of the game were not explained. Players had to figure them out for themselves.