• not openly acknowledged or displayed
  • hidden or secret

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bag Factory is one of many institutions around the world which has closed its doors and postponed or cancelled its public programme 'until further notice'. Following the lead of other countries, South Africa implemented a nationwide 21 day lockdown from 23:59 on 26 March 2020.

How are arts organisations reacting and responding to this crisis?

The art industry in a time of Corona has no choice but to adapt and respond reflexively to the world around us. In this spirit, the Bag Factory is exploring the myriad of virtual platforms that exist as a gateway between our organisation, our artists, and our audiences. We are launching our first online exhibition COVERT BIOSCOPE showcasing work by current and recent Bag Factory artists whose young and emerging voices are contributing to the conversations around video as a visual art medium / practice. We invite our audiences to join us for the scheduled screenings and live conversations that will take place with the participating artists. 

In this project, cyberspace is re-imagined as an alternative venue for the bioscope, a community space from a time gone by. In the age of Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, and shortened attention spans, how do our behaviours and experiences shift when we experience art in the confines of our homes, alone, unobserved? The optimal video length to hold online audiences is under 2 minutes - if we share longer videos will our audience(s) stay till the end credits? How do we speak to digital saturated spaces where so often things get lost, or overlooked, while at the same time these spaces also make content hyper visible. How do we communicate meaningfully with one another in virtual voids? Who do we choose to be in the various virtual space(s) we frequent? Do any of these virtual platforms satisfy the basic human condition of loneliness? Can we really feel more connected in a time of increasing disconnect?

As our online social and professional interactions increase sharply, is there such a thing as private cyber space, or is it inevitable that our digital movements will be tracked and traced? What does it mean to live in a society 'relatively free' of covert cyber surveillance (if there is such a thing), versus living in a society that overtly restricts what we can see and access? Do we know the difference? 

The Covert Bioscope provides the perfect moment to dissect these concerns in the age of Covid-19. Pause. Explore. Watch. Respond. Question. Join the conversation via live Zoom events that are advertised on the Covert Bioscope exhibition page; watch via the Bag Factory's Facebook live feed; or tell us what you think using #covertbioscope.


Day 1: Wednesday 8 April 2020

Videos will be posted on our website at 15:00 (SA time)

Live conversation with the artists at 15:30 (SA time) [Join via Zoom]


Phumulani Ntuli, Notes from an algorithmic memory (The___bends in the wrong direction. Episode 2), 2018. Performance Film, Centrale Fies Live works Vol. 6 Italy, 22:15 min

The project is composed of a series of components and entry points of found moving images and sound. Episode 2 approaches found material to reposition the gaze of trophy images as Suvendrini Perera states “the trophy body of the nonhuman is the figure of a dense meshing of histories, relations, practices, aesthetics and technologies. A series of crossings and recrossings of speciationand racialization locate the nonhuman body as trophy artefact”. Episode 2_Chapter one attends to the trophy image to comprehend its socio-political conditions within contemporary representations, decoloniality, public space and futurity.


Olivia Botha, At Sea, 2019, 02:09 min

An Albatross
‘round your neck
Guts out 
Over the misty sea 
Still at dusk and dawn 
The coming tides 
The coming time
Water breaks 
Never still 
(excerpt from At Sea, O. Botha, 2019)

The ocean: a passage of stories, of people and entity.
A place of creatures and mystery.

A woman’s silhouette is seen she appears and disappears as the ocean retreats in segments. A poem is being recited in English with a wisp of Afrikaans. The silhouette seems to be alone, but it is hard to tell if she is lonely. The short fragments of the film were shot while the artist was visiting her hometown. Unintentionally, the video was made using a cellphone, which although not ideal, allowed for unobtrusive filming.

The video questions our relationship with a big body of water, in particular, the ocean and the emotions closely tied to it. Stories around the enigma of the ocean have left us wondering about its myth and mysteries. What is it about the ocean that draws us in and what happens when you leave it behind? Who does the ocean belong to anyway? When does a body of water become political? As often as the human body? And what does that do to our psyche? Sucked up, dried-up; an emptied vessel. 


Neville Starling, Breadth, 2020, 15:85 min

A brown paper bag becomes an extension of anxious lungs. Our breath is limited to the width of our hopes and fears. Within the expanding and contracting crinkles of this appendage, there is another climate - a world within ourselves. Here, the height of the sky determines the length of our strides. Our place in this world is, at this moment, informed by distance.

Breadth measures the inner dimensions of our constrained selves at a time when the ebb and flow of our limits are being tested. A moment of uncertainty, dread, and fear but also a moment of innovative affection, altered daydreams, readjusted appreciations and new hopes. An obscure place where the deep love for another keeps us at a distance, challenging a personal commitment to social responsibility and care. Whilst this space holds us in isolation, it also gives us time with ourselves.

Clouds build to Rorschach inkblots. We are introduced, once again, to ourselves as we daydream in this small world. When imagination replaces the world beyond our physical limits, we extend our ability to see ourselves in other places.

Day 2: Wednesday 15 April 2020

Videos will be posted on our website at 15:00 (SA time)

Live conversation with the artists at 15:30 (SA time) [Join via Zoom]


Malebona Maphutse, Fuck Your Fake Ass History Mamoloyi Healing Ministries, 2019, 13:33 min

Welcome to Mamoloyi’s Universe. As we see the world through Mamoloyi’s eyes, she takes us on a journey through History. We see her role as a matriarch, a heroine, and constant looming god power throughout the past, present and future. We are here to travel through time with her. To experience the endless options and possibilities of her versions of history and ideas about the universe.

This work is focussed on the ritual and spiritual engagements that take place in different spaces that inform a number of social, economic, religious and relational politics in order to create time-landscapes. By embodying the fictional character of Mamaloyi, I have begun to intertwine these politics in order to emphasise and rethink ways in which these bodies exist within, but are not limited to, a South African context.


Helena Uambembe, More shall never be enough, 2018, 04:01 min

More Shall never be enough speaks to the notion of greed and consumption. At the time of creating the video in 2018, the atrocity that was duped the “Dros rape case” had just happened and I had just finished a research trip with the Pomfret community, where I had also heard stories of violence and injustice.

This video is my response to the ideas of greed, gluttony, lust and grief; individuals seek power to an excess even if they cannot consume anymore.  


Phumulani Ntuli holds a Masters in the Fine Arts- Arts Public Sphere from (ECAV) Ecole Cantonale D’Art du Valais in Sierre-Switzerland and was awarded Prix-excellence for his ongoing research project “Permutations of an event” centered around notions of archives and surveillance. Ntuli’s opus merges the ambit of artistic research, sculpture, video installations and performative practices.

As an artist/ practitioner Ntuli has presented and/ or contributed work within the context of Congo Biennale-Kinshasa, Experimental Dome Film Festival, The Live Works V6 curated by Simone Frangi and Daniel Blanga Gubbay, 2016 Kampala Biennale in Uganda curated by Elise Atangana, the 2016 Bone Performance Festival in Bern Switzerland, curated by Valerian Maly and also performed in the 2016 Act Festival in Geneva, Basel, Sierre and Zurich. During the aforementioned year, Ntuli participated in residencies/ workshops at the Fondazione Pistoletto in Biella, Italy and the Alps Art Academy in Chur, Switzerland.

Olivia Botha was born 1991 in Bloemfontein, South Africa and raised in Cape Town. She graduated from Michaelis School of Fine Arts, University of Cape Town in 2017. Botha is a multi-disciplinary visual artist working predominately in sculptural installation, video performance and sound. She aims to keep her practice open to allow for change, growth and experimentation. Conceptually, her work revolves around a range of topics that affect or influence her at a specific time and place. Some of her reoccurring themes inquire into, reflect and attempt to deconstruct notions of identity, place, belonging and what it means to be human.

As the 2018 and 8th winner of the prestigious Cassirer Welz Award, Botha presented her first solo show at SMAC Gallery in Johannesburg. In 2018, Botha completed a residency program at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo and exhibited her first residency solo show. She was the only South African represented at The E-qualities of Women exhibition at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare later in the same year. The artist was a recipient of the Moleskine Foundation Scholarship granting her the opportunity to participate in the AtWork workshop conducted by Simon Njami and Andrew Tshabangu at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare in December 2018.

Neville Starling is a self-taught, interdisciplinary artist, born 1988 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe where he maintains a secondary darkroom and studio for larger works.

Motivated by his father’s windows of changed personality due to Alzheimer’s disease, Starling deconstructs time’s relationship with memory both individually and collectively. He examines the interplay of reality and perception with memory, and how these are interwoven within the continuum of identity. His use of antiquated photographic techniques takes on alternative display configurations from re-imaginings of the mechanisms of cinema, to installation, to kinetic, light-based sculptural forms. 

Starling represented Zimbabwe at the 58th Venice Biennale, May You Live In Interesting Times, 2019. The artist’s first solo exhibition, Rest Until, 2016, was held at The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. His recent group exhibitions include: I had a dream, 2019, curated by Simon Njami, at the Africa Center, New York; Lost and Found: Expectations, Uncertainty, Excitement and Hope, 2018 curated by Raphael Chikukwa at The National Gallery of Zimbabwe; the 51st edition of the Zimbabwe Annual Art Exhibition, Blood Relatives, 2018, curated by Raphael Chikukwa at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. Starling finished runner-up in the first Zimbabwean PPC Imaginarium Awards in 2018.