In 2009, Graeme Mortimer Evelyn, aka Grim, was commissioned by Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives to "subvert historical record"[1]. The result of extensive research and an old Chinese gambling table – the museum acquired the large painted relief sculpture, Reading the Riot (Act), a permanent work acquired for their new contemporary art collections. This commission is on permanent display in the People Gallery, at the M Shed. 

The piece is inspired by, and seeks to be a piece of, the long history of dissent within the city. 

Influences - according to selected notes, 2009 

“We have laws against it, precisely so we can get away with it. Corruption is our protection. Corruption is what keeps us safe and warm. Corruption is why you and I are prancing around here instead of fighting each other for scraps of meat out there in the streets. Corruption; is why we win.”  

-  Syriana (2005) Directed by Stephen Gaghan. Distributed by Warner Bros.

“Make a man an offer he cannot refuse in a language he can understand”

-  famous Italian Mafia saying 


Reading The Riot Act predominantly references the Reform Riot of 1831. 

It also encompasses the threads and links with other historical narratives outlined in Challenging Stories. When Graeme Evelyn read the brief, surveyed the histories being considered, and surveyed the documentation supporting the commission, he found several defining links.

- Our historical relationship to Law and defence of basic rights within the Law

- Reading the Riot Act to gatherings of people opposed to and protesting injustice of a current Law with or without the use of threatening violence

- Bristol social historical accounts of consistently questioning ‘authority’ and established norms of control with or without the use of threatening violence

- The often-equal number of dissent and pro status quo voices on historical record

- Evelyn is particularly interested in the metaphor of the ‘record’ and ‘recording’ of events of ‘truths’, ‘facts’ and ‘fiction’, especially through use of the circle. The uses of circles, he observes, have often represented cycles of repetitive historical events in many cultures.

“What goes around comes around”

“The Cause and Effect of Karmic Action and Reaction”

- Bristol’s relationship to its often dissent inspired popular musical legacy, which has encouraged so many to relocate to the City, in search of a rich tapestry of recorded social musical chemistry.



According to a Jamaica Street artist who knows Evelyn, the artwork is a visual pun on the word "record" - it is both a historical and vinyl record. The musicians each wear a coloured tie corresponding to the main political parties. The dancing couple look as if they are in harmony with each other - but are they? In reality how is the relationship between the law and democracy, freedom, equality, justice and reform?

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