Yunfei Ren At The Guardhouse

Presented By


FOR-SITE presents Yunfei Ren At The Guardhouse: Prevailing Winds, a new installation inside The Guardhouse at Fort Mason Center For Arts & Culture (FMCAC), on view from March 23, 2024 to June 9, 2024. The installation is free and open to the public, viewable through the windows 24 hours/day. The Guardhouse is located at the main entrance to FMCAC.

The free opening reception happens on Thursday, April 4, 2024, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and includes an artist and curator talk.

Free Admission

With this installation, Bay Area-based artist Yunfei Ren (b. 1987, Wuhan, China) creates a “portal” between the past and present, commemorating the more than 300,000 Chinese immigrants who endured the weeks-long steamship voyage from southern China to San Francisco during the California Gold Rush (1848-1855) up until the U.S. Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, when Chinese laborers were banned from entering on the basis of racial identity.

Situated on the waterfront with views of Angel Island, the artist’s installation is a further reminder of the estimated several hundred thousand Asian and other immigrants who between 1910 and 1940 came through the Angel Island Immigration Station, where detainment and harsh, humiliating conditions interfered with perhaps more hopeful pursuits of the “American Dream.”

Titled Prevailing Winds, this new work inside The Guardhouse hints at forces that bear on human migratory patterns from throughout history, as well as Ren’s personal experience with transpacific migration. Gold foil-embellished Joss papers — symbolic of paper money and traditionally burned as ancestral offerings in Chinese culture — flutter against the forced air of an oscillating fan reminiscent of one that cooled the artist’s childhood home. Ren speaks of “mirrors reflecting history” when unorthodoxly utilizing Joss papers. Bouncing a colorful array, he pays tribute to the earliest Chinese immigrants who entered the Golden Gate for the prospect of mining gold, ultimately building tunnels and railroads, creating lasting infrastructure in the American West. Arranged in a grid designed by the artist to evoke longitudinal and latitudinal lines on a flat map, how might gilded ‘banknotes’ make amends for the contributions, and the backbone, of generations of immigrants?

Ren’s installation is accompanied by a seven-minute, two-channel recording titled, Sounds of the Boundless Ocean (2023), which debuted at the Coulter Gallery at Stanford University. Inspired by the transpacific voyage of Chinese immigrants during the Gold Rush, this work by the artist plays faintly on-loop and can be heard through the windows of The Guardhouse.

ABOUT THE ARTIST. Yunfei Ren first came to the U.S. for undergraduate school in Vermont before leaving again to live abroad in Europe. He moved to San Francisco prior to the pandemic. Once in San Francisco, he decided to discontinue working in fashion photography, turning his focus towards a career in the visual arts further solidified by his pursuit of an MFA at Stanford University. Working in sculpture, installation, photography, and sound, Ren’s art practice centers on the immigrant experience, exploring ideas about displacement, racial identity, and belonging in the context of history, citizenship, and queerness.

About FOR-SITE. Established in 2003, FOR-SITE is dedicated to the creation, understanding, and presentation of art about place. For more information, visit:

About The Guardhouse Program. The Guardhouse Program is designed to serve three artists annually, directly supporting the year-round creation, presentation, and understanding of art about place. Each artist activates the former military guard station with a temporary art installation responding to the natural and cultural significance of the site and its surrounding area. The Guardhouse Program launched through an open call for proposals in 2023.

Yunfei Ren At The Guardhouse: Prevailing Winds is presented by FOR-SITE in partnership with Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture. The Guardhouse Program is made possible thanks to generous support from the ARB Fund.

Image Credits —
Numbers 1 & 2: Photos by Yunfei Ren
Number 3: Photo by Lisa Ellsworth

Similar Events

More To Explore