Jonathan Baxter

Artist and …

Reading Towards Action

Reading Towards Action (2009-ongoing) is informed by the writings of Paulo Freire and was kick-started by reading Brian K. Murphy’s book Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World: An Open Conspiracy for Social Change. By reading texts together in the crossfire of interpretation, Reading Towards Action opens up a space for critical reflection and encourages collective action on issues of personal and political concern.

Jonathan Baxter - Reading Towards Action - 2011

As an artist working in the context of peer-education, Reading Towards Action has mostly focused on texts relating to art, ecology and cultural activism. Action has taken the form of individual and/or collective artworks, performances, curated exhibitions, festivals, and, in a personal capacity, direct political action.

In addition to work undertaken with D-AiR and OSP, Reading Towards Action has been programmed as part of the Nomas* Projects exhibition, Reflections on the Incarnation, the Arts and Communities Programme, Aberdeen, Murmur: Artists Reflect on Climate Change, Ullapool, and Town is the Garden’s reading group, Field Notes for Surviving the Future.

In 2019 Reading Towards Action commenced in Edinburgh. The programme and reading material retain an archive presence below.


EH8 – Reading Towards Action

This round of Reading Towards Action starts with Suzanne Lacy’s influential essay, ‘Debated Territory: Toward a Critical Language for Public Art’. It relates Lacy’s essay to the climate and ecological crisis and asks what the relationship between social movements and contemporary art practices looks like today.

Four sessions are scheduled. After that we’ll decide a collective way forward.

When: 7-9pm, 6th, 20th June, 4th* and 18th July.

SESSION ONE: See Lacy. Scroll down to page 171 and you’ll find Lacy’s essay, ‘Debated Territory: Toward a Critical Language for Public Art’. Session one will be a ‘getting to know you’ session, using Lacy’s text, specifically her diagrams, as a starting point for discussion.

SESSION TWO: See Marshman. This essay, by Jennifer Marshman, entitled, ‘Communing with bees: A whole-of-community approach to address crisis in the Anthropocene’, is a good overview of the literature. It offers a grounded approach to inter-human and interspecies relationships through a place-based, integrated and participatory model of eco-social justice and equity. (A mouthful, I know!) Following a discussion of the text Kate Foster will introduce her own ‘whole-of-community’ art practice.

SESSION THREE: See Cocker. Selected by Kittie Jones in response to previous reading material. This essay is taken from Mark Cocker’s book Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before It Is Too Late?. We’ll be meeting at Whitespace and heading out into the Royal Park to consider Cocker’s provocation: ‘if we cannot sustain a country equal to the love we bear it, then who on Earth can?’ Come equipped for changing weather and a drawing workshop led by Kittie.

SESSION FOUR: See XR 1 and XR 2. This week we’re reading a few short chapters from Extinction Rebellion’s recently published handbook, This is Not a Drill. We’ll also be reviewing our experience of Reading Towards Action and considering next steps.

Where: White Space, 76 East Crosscauseway, Edinburgh, EH8 9HQ.

Cost: Free

Everyone is welcome. The only criteria for inclusion being a willingness to engage with the texts and listen to different points of view.

To find out more or sign up to the programme email jb4change[at] If you don’t sign up you can still read the texts and/or put in an appearance on the day.

If you’re coming late to this website or running late for a session please drop JB an email or call 07954123543.