Sounds of the Boundless Ocean is a body of work consisting of an installation, a soundtrack, a photograph and a performance. It is inspired by the trans-pacific journey that 19th-century Chinese immigrants embarked towards San Francisco. The installation evokes the immigrants' sense of hope and loneliness during the arduous passage, yet hints at what awaited them in the decades and a century to come. Tensions are emphasized throughout the piece; the tight ropes contrast with soft curves of the balloons, while the dim lights inside flicker to the thuds from the soundtrack. The kinetic construction and the live performance fuse the artist with the diasporic community. Meanwhile, the movements shuttle the audience between the past and the present, drawing a lineage between historical racial trauma and contemporary immigrant experience. The balloons, while light and buoyant, are fragile and ultimately not in control of their fate, which serve as a metaphor for the immigrant labor exploited in building the American Empire.

Installation: 150’'(W) x 180''(L) x 160’'(H) | balloons, LED lights, LED controller, electrical wires, ropes, pulleys, railroad spikes, fabrics
Soundtrack: 7 minutes | two-channel sound recording, four speakers
Photograph: 24’’ x 36’’ | inkjet print
Performance: 7 minutes | performed live at the Coulter Gallery on February 22, 2023

Exhibited at the Coulter Gallery at Stanford University
February 21 - March 17, 2023



Installation view:



A story about loss, alienation and the search for belonging. A ghost of a Chinese coolie who worked on the Transcontinental railroad emerges at night in the modern-day San Francisco Chinatown. Every location presented in the images tells a story about the history and the experience of the Chinese diaspora. The series recounts the historic discrimination and prejudice against the Asian immigrant community and draws connection to today’s continuing violence against immigrants at large.

Exhibited at the

de Young Open at de Young Museum
September 30, 2023 – January 7, 2024

Rotterdam Photo
February 2023

Chinese Historical Society Museum
October 16 – November 12, 2021

Press: Washington Post; SF Standard 


Each RV park is a microcosm of American culture and family dynamics. Suburban families who vacation during the summer mingle with the poorer rural residents who live permanently on the parks. On a documentary level, the series touches on themes of parenthood, masculinity, and growing up. On a conceptual level, the images capture as much about the subjects as they reflect the viewers. Through the series, I explore the friction between knowing that some of our preconceived notions are almost certainly true (while some are not) and the inability to verify them without truly meeting the subjects.

Published on It's Nice That


Yunfei Ren |  All Rights Reserved