"It may be gimmicky, it may be pop, but a T-shirt is also a notice board of the latter half of the 20th century, reflecting social change, cultural trends and functioning as a blank page to any artist working today." To read Rachel Steward's debut editorial in full, without detaching the magazine from the wearer, you would have to twist you head about 90 degrees, following the text round as it radiates outwards from an ink-stained brain. Thankfully, you can get the message just by looking at the medium.Works by half a dozen artists are scattered all over the "canvas".
The contents include some sound bites by a "women's mass-media arts initiative", a drawing of Dr Spock being held in a Vulcan hand-grip in a piece entitled "What a Way to Maintain Control Over a Man" and a pseudo-punk jumble of press cuttings called "Things to Do on a Rainy Day".
Sound a bit gimmicky? "People either love it or hate it," explains Steward, 27, a former English student and lapsed performance poet. "I felt there was a strong need for a forum where you could see hybrid works of art which are generally ignored by conventional art reviews and galleries. There is a real snobbery about artists who haven't been published or exhibited - I wanted to show that there were other, equally valid ways of getting exposure."
Alternatives will be tried out in the forthcoming quarterly editions. Engaged will reinvent itself next time round as a poster, thereafter as computer disc ("perhaps partly released down the Internet," Steward suggests) and as live performance. By contr
a st with these plans, the Apple Mac-designed T-shirt seems relatively tame.
Still, it's shocking enough for the ICA, in London, which snapped up 20, and if Dillons is selling them, they must have some commercial appeal too.
The editor will just be thankful to cover her outlay. "It might have the potential to be a cult, but no larger than that," she believes. Trusting that, as word gets round, artists will step forward with appropriate material, she has nevertheless pasted aLonely Arts notice-board on the garment. Above the ad for the mobile disco, who can fail to be moved by the words beseeching collaborative partnership: "Poet living in London seeking Animator to work on project involving already completed narrative poem(a light-hearted account of the life of a female serial killer)"? As for prompting more mundane social encounters, Steward is doubtful: "It could be read on the Tube, but I think it would be a bit too challenging to read it on someone who is moving."
n `Engaged', 334a Kennington Rd, London SE11 (071-735 3123)