Pioneer is the result of a research project based in Sheffield Hallam University’s Psalter Lane Learning Centre. I was eager to pursue the idea that some items in the library have never been used since their addition to the library stock. The amount of use indicates the relative importance of a book in an objectivist knowledge economy that is based on consensus. The most popular ideas garner a greater consensus, and become accepted as truths. Researching the least used items in the library led to a short-list of twenty-one books that had never been withdrawn from the library, for which an edition of bespoke inserts was produced. Alongside a short explanatory text, each insert presented the image of the plaque from the Pioneer space probes, originally designed by Carl Sagan to alert extraterrestrial intelligent life of our location in the galaxy. These inserts will lie dormant with the books for as long as they are left unused: as soon as one is located, the finder is instructed to remove it from the book.

As the project developed, it quickly became clear that the Learning Centre database wasn’t entirely reliable. While carrying out the manual search for the twenty-one never-used books that the database reported, at least three other books with empty library stamp sheets were located. This suggests that there are an unknown number of these uncertain objects, which have evaded both use and classification, lying dormant in the library.

An edition of mimeograph prints was also produced, as was a portfolio of photographs and a hand-made book.

Year of production: 2006
Media: research project in Sheffield Hallam University’s Psalter Lane Learning Centre, leading to the production of a series of book inserts of various sizes, laser-printed on semitransparent paper (status unknown); a hand-made book, digital print, A5 format (no longer extant); a series of 4-colour mimeograph prints, A3 format.
Special thanks to Richard Swift and the staff of the SHU Psalter Lane Learning Centre.