In 2019, Jason Lazarus began an archive of used webcam covers–often ad hoc bits of tape, sticky notes, and other everyday materials that people use to cover up the camera on their laptops or other devices. He sees these webcam covers as “the world’s smallest protest signs, among other things.”
According to Lazarus, since at least 2016, Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook and CEO of Meta Platforms, covers his personal laptop webcam with a piece of tape. Former director of the FBI James Comey Jr. is on record as covering the camera on his laptop as well. With such important figures in the worlds of information gathering and surveillance showing apprehension about the security of such devices in our personal spaces staring at us, the artist was moved to reconsider our relationship with the webcam. Lazarus suggests that technology “seems to offer an initial democratizing possibility for expression and exchange” until the corporate logic and state surveillance inflects its usage.
For Metadata, the artist has created not only the first large scale, framed, photographic print of the growing archive, but in addition, a 40” tall artist print to be distributed freely to exhibition visitors and participants in the public submission project. (Christopher Jones, Curator 2022)
Photos of the First Known Collection of Webcam Covers
by Elizabeth Renstrom, Vice Magazine, 12/23/19
“…Our webcams are in such an intimate space, staring at us unblinking, as a sort of default open aperture for most people. You have to make a choice to close it, and this choice is represented by the most modest, casual means, often in relief against the sleek design of our computers—it’s a fantastic clash and the covers became analogous to me of a protest sign (I think of them as the world’s smallest protest signs) or a gate, a Band-aid (sometimes literally), a panopticon, etc.
Years earlier, in 2010, I had read about the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers University, spurned by being outed through webcam spying by his roommate, which made such a strong impression on me. Last, in the past few years, I’ve been thinking more about objects that are about images—a kind of ‘metadata,’—objects that are about images, vision, and visibility. And last, the 2016 New York Times article Mark Zuckerberg Covers His Laptop Camera. You Should Consider It, Too that features an incidental view of his webcam cover lingering in the lower left-hand corner of a tweeted office image.
As a thank you to those who submit to the used webcam cover project via snail mail, I send a small webcam cover I produce that is a photographic sticker—a very zoomed-in image detail (so zoomed in it’s almost abstract if you don’t know what it is) of Zuckerberg’s webcam tape cover.”
DO YOU COVER YOUR WEBCAM ?
i’m creating a deep archive, titled Used webcam covers (Live Archive, 2019-Present), of used webcam covers (what I consider among the world’s smallest protest signs, among other things) and would love to collect yours…need not be fancy or flashy, every submission is appreciated and included.
i can send you a large poster featuring the archive in spring 2022 as a thank-you for your used webcam cover submission!
please indicate your preferred mailing address alongside your used webcam cover submission and send to:
304 w crest ave
tampa, fl 33603
thanks to all the friends, students, and strangers-at-airports, cafes, libraries, etc who have humored me and donated so far…