When Montreal artist Dominique Pétrin was first asked to participate in elusive British artist Banksy's newest political project, the Walled Off Hotel, she thought she was being scammed.
"For the longest period, I was very skeptical," she told CBC. "I thought it was another prank. But at some point, the more there was details, I believed it."
A printmaker and installation artist, Pétrin designed a room in the hotel, which – located in the West Bank city of Bethlehem – is meant to draw attention and promote dialogue about Palestine.
Every room, including Pétrin's bright, colonial-era inspired design, feature a view of the wall, located right across the street.
"The aim is to tell the story of the wall from every side and give visitors the opportunity to discover it for themselves," states the hotel's website.
Pétrin was asked to participate last summer but was given little context about the project that she was about to embark on. All she knew was that she was designing a room for a hotel in a former British colony that was falling apart.
Drawing from colonial wallpaper and architecture, Pétrin's room is a slew of colourful geometric patterns and nondescript images that seem slightly off.
One zigzag pattern is made out of Xanax pills.
Another portion of the wallpaper looks like a framed painting, but alongside the birds and flowers depicted is a flying drone.
"The room is very cozy, beautiful, ornamented — but when you look at details they are all kind of wrong," Pétrin says.
The design was a gamble, as Pétrin did not even know where the hotel would be located until a week before flying in to set it up.
She could not have been more satisfied by the result, however.
"It was kind of magical how it happened — the second I stepped in the hotel and I saw what was going on, it was absolutely fantastic to realize that what I was working on for two months was completely fitting in. It was like the piece of the puzzle I made completely fit perfectly."
Operating in secret
Working on a Banksy project has a cost, though, as Pétrin had to operate largely in secret.
During the month Pétrin spent setting up the room, she was not allowed to leave the hotel. So she devised tactics to stay in touch with the outside world during that month.
"I would know the exact moment of the day where there would be a sun ray that would go through this one crack through the curtains that I could sunbathe in," she said.
Although difficult, even "torturous" at times, the Montreal artist still relished the adventure of it all.
"It's really exciting. You feel like a secret agent," said Pétrin.
That secrecy extended to other portions of the operation. When asked about working with Banksy, Pétrin couldn't answer. She said that she never met, nor does she know, who Banksy is.
Because of Banksy's celebrity, Pétrin expects the hotel to make waves.
Having her work incorporated into such an undertaking is incredible, the Montreal artist said.
"I would never have any power in my hands to do this kind of gesture," said Pétrin. "To be part of this is unbelievable."