Qian (Janice) Wang



Research@ML Feast

The culmination of my design and experimental work for my master's thesis was a Lab-wide feast where I showcased my studies in sensory interaction in a production of dinner-as-art. The five-act feast combined food, music, spectacle, creativity, and social interaction to produce a unique event that celebrated the Media Lab community.

Act I: Beginnings

The first act did not involve food. Instead, it was a utensil-making course. With the help of Philippa Mothersill from the Media Lab, we designed a modified “Christmas cracker” that encouraged participants to tear open the cracker with the help of others, revealing the utensil-building tools inside. To accentuate the playful and primitive feeling, each audio channel played a different djembe drumming pattern so that the total sonic effect approximated a drum circle.

Act II: Nature

The second act was inspired by Asian brush painting, to evoke a feeling of simplicity and being in nature. Diners were served a salad course, accompanied by sounds streamed live from a nearby cranberry bog, courtesy of the Tidmarsh project.

Act III: Spectacle

For the third act, I explored the medieval notion of food as spectacle and diversion. The act began with a colorful cascade of rosewater-scented dry ice fog, followed by trumpet fanfare and the arrival of dishes. The dishes were served family-style. Each table received five random dishes from a total of ten varieties, with instructions to share their food with other tables.

Act IV: Expression

The fourth act was centered on the idea of expression. Like other branches of art, dessert often reflects the social and cultural conditions of the society it comes from. My goal was to create a dessert that reflected the creative, do-it-yourself spirit of the Media Lab. Jazz music played in the background to enhance the improvisational nature of the course.

Act V: Dream

The final act was designed to invoke a sense of dreaming and fantasy in the tradition of Surrealist art. First, each table received a platter of assorted petit fours on a bed of brightly colored cotton candy. After those were served, a simple, lullaby-like melody triggered a balloon drop onto the diners. To enhance the dreamlike effect, I used large, silver teardrop-shaped balloons. The balloons were filled with a mixture of helium and air so they would fall slowly. The first balloon carried a sign that read, “watch out for candies.” Subsequent balloons had packets of Pop Rocks attached to them and carried signs that read, “please share me”.


Media Scores Rendering

Media Scores, designed by Peter Torpey at the Media Lab, is a tool for orchestrating multiple modalities in the creation of expressive works of art and performance. The tool serves as a traditional score in the sense of encoding the artists’ vision for further performance; but unlike a traditional score, it focuses on capturing the creative intent of the artist so that multiple modalities of the artwork can be brought together. Unlike a traditional, symbolic score representation, Media Scores also conveys an expressive feeling in the score itself. The intent of Media Score is to facilitate multiple representations of the same underlying artistic idea while being a control system that can be used during live performance. The expressive parameters captured by Media Scores are: weight, intensity, density, complexity, texture, regularity, and rate. I used Media Scores to document my intended expressive design for the Feast, incorporating the menu, food, smell, music, visuals, and lighting.