Now on sale as part of Edition365, Norton’s work aims to raise awareness for OCD and challenge its misconceptions
In March 2020, Hannah Norton’s younger sister Katie developed obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Their mother had just gone through surgery to treat breast cancer; five days later, the government announced its first national Covid-19 lockdown. “The combination of these events created a perfect storm,” says Norton. Katie became deeply afraid of passing the virus onto her mother, and while isolating in her student halls, the OCD developed.
“Watching my sister experience OCD made me aware of how narrow our understanding of it is, and how lazy visual tropes feed this ignorance,” writes Norton, in an introduction to her series of images, Twenty Seconds to Safety. Made in collaboration with Katie and their mother, the work aims to challenge these preconceptions and show how the effects of OCD can be “unrelenting and nuanced”. Five of these images are now included in Edition365: an immersive virtual exhibition and NFT drop from ART3. As well as making portraits, Norton asked Katie to describe her emotional state. Using coloured stickers that correlate to these emotions, they illustrate the nuanced experiences of OCD.
“The process was intensive,” says Norton, who was living with Katie and their mother while making the series. The artist wanted to create a series through which Katie could communicate the effects of OCD directly to the viewer.
To achieve that, Norton knew it needed to be a collaborative process. But, “I started out the wrong way,” says Norton. “I had preconceived ideas of how I wanted the collaborative element to look, and sat her down with paints and markers because this is what made sense to me, but it didn’t make sense to Katie. I quickly learned that you have to abandon any preconceived ideas of how the work might look and let the participant lead the way.”
The work became led by Katie’s emotions, shaping the process and outcome of the work. “I went into the project with an idea of how it might look and very quickly realised that was futile,” Norton reflects. “Katie’s personal experiences led the way. I created the space for this to happen but everything else is down to her.”