Multimedia Art Installation Illuminates Bay Area’s Chinese Maritime History

A collage of images including water and a sailboat.

Chinese Whispers

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News Release Date: October 23, 2015

Contact: Morgan Smith, 415-561-7049

Contact: Rene Yung, 415-309-4386

Chinese Whispers: Bay Chronicles Gives New Voice and Visibility to Forgotten Immigrant Community

Free Exhibit Opens November 14, 2015 in the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Visitor Center

San Francisco – Chinese Whispers: Bay Chronicles, a partnership between Chinese Whispers and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, brings a unique artistic experience to the San Francisco waterfront with a free multimedia art installation opening on November 14 in the Park’s Visitor Center, located at the corner of Hyde and Jefferson Streets in San Francisco.

Created by Chinese Whispers Artistic and Executive Director Rene Yung, the installation explores the changes and dislocations in the cultural and ecological environment of San Francisco Bay through sound and video captured during a series of voyages aboard the replica San Francisco shrimping junk Grace Quan last year. It weaves together material from historians, scientists, archaeologists and boatbuilders to shed light on the forgotten role of the Chinese shrimping community in Bay Area history.

“The installation offers the public an exciting and unexpected way to engage with this overlooked chapter of our local maritime heritage,” said Yung. “A sheer, ephemeral ‘sail’ emerges from between the Visitor Center theater’s heavy blue velvet curtains and shimmers with a flowing video projection, while an immersive soundscape envelops onlookers with sounds from the voyages, and subtly layered voices reading from historical texts and oral history interviews.”

Chinese Whispers: Bay Chronicles began with a series of voyages around San Francisco Bay to visit Chinese shrimping grounds and locate historic shrimp camp sites on the modern landscape. NPS skipper John Muir led the Grace Quan crew, while an artistic team, led by Yung, chronicled the voyages through sound recordings, video, and photographs. Cultural experts, and historical ecologists from the San Francisco Estuary Institute, provided on-location insights during the sails.

At one time a thriving industry with 26 camps ringing San Francisco Bay, the Chinese shrimp fishery disappeared by the mid-twentieth century. “The installation is about witnessing and remembering,” said Yung, who master-minded the interdisciplinary research and chronicling project, and is an internationally exhibiting artist whose roster of venues includes the Venice Biennale. “It juxtaposes the buried past and the concrete present to poetically evoke one chapter — among many — of oppression and erasure in the historic Chinese immigrant experience in America, and to create an ecology of inter-connected parts that lifts social amnesia to honor a forgotten pioneer community.”

Chinese Whispers is a community-based cultural organization pioneering a multi-platform approach to bring to light the role and experience of the Chinese who helped build the railroads, mines, and settlements of the American West. It brings this overlooked history to the public through an innovative program of research, community engagement, and storytelling and artistic productions. Chinese Whispers: Bay Chronicles is supported in part by the Creative Work Fund, a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund supported by generous grants from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and The James Irvine Foundation; the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; and Center for Cultural Innovation; and is fiscally sponsored by Intersection for the Arts. For more information, call 415-648-1302, or visit or at

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park includes a fleet of National Historic Landmark vessels, Small Boat Shop, Maritime Museum, Visitor Center, and a Maritime Research Center. For more info, call 415-447-5000, or visit or

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Last updated: November 4, 2015

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