Chinese Whispers: Bay ChroniclesSM retraces the forgotten history of Chinese shrimp fishing in San Francisco Bay, to explore an overlooked and important segment of the San Francisco Bay Area’s maritime history. In collaboration with the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, we sailed on the Park’s replica 19th century Chinese shrimp junk, the Grace Quan, to former Chinese shrimp fishing sites. These journeys were chronicled by an interdisciplinary team that includes visual, sound, and media artists led by Artistic Director Rene Yung, as well as a maritime archaeologist from the Park and historical ecologists from the San Francisco Estuary Institute.
Public engagement programs took place in conjunction with landings along the route of the sails, with a public celebration at China Camp Village in China Camp State Park, whose structures are the only remaining ones out of numerous former Chinese shrimping camps around the Bay Area.
A multimedia art installation at the Park’s Visitor Center presented a poetic interpretation of the changes and dislocations in the cultural and ecological environment of San Francisco Bay. Featuring sounds and video captured on the Bay Chronicles voyages, the immersive installation created an experiential matrix for the story of the once-thriving Chinese shrimp fisheries, and a palpable metaphor for the historical amnesia in the national narrative about the lives and contributions of early Chinese immigrant communities. A short documentary video about the voyages accompanied the installation, and a public program connected family memories about a former Chinese shrimp camp in Richmond, CA, with insights from an archaeological excavation in the same area
We are delighted and honored to continue our history of successful collaboration with the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park on this project. Chinese Whispers: Bay ChroniclesSM is made possible by generous support from the Creative Work Fund, with additional support from the California Arts Council, a state agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, the Center for Cultural Innovation, sponsors, and individuals.