The FBI's X-Files unit just moved into a Vancouver art gallery

Believe it. This re-creation of Mulder's basement office features original props from the show.

Believe it. This re-creation of Mulder's basement office features original props from the show

Mulder's basement office (plus Spooky himself), as seen on the X-Files. (Fox)

It only took him 25 years, but Agent Fox Mulder has finally moved his office out of the J. Edgar Hoover building's basement and into, of all places, a Vancouver art gallery.

Through June 30, Vancouver's Back Gallery Project — typically home to local artists including Talia Shipman and Danielle "The Jealous Curator" Krysa — will double as a sort of white-cube version of the X-Files's most famous set. There are a few less pencils in the ceiling, and it's a million times tidier than it ever appeared on TV, but the iconic basics are all there: Mulder's desk and chairs, filing cabinets (stuffed with actual X-files) and an "I Want to Believe" poster — the image that's set the décor standard for casual conspiracy theorists since 1993.

And while David Duchovny, the "FBI's most unwanted" himself, won't actually be keeping office hours, everything in the room is authentic, sourced from the personal collection of X-Files creator Chris Carter. The bulletin board, Mulder's FBI intermural league trophies, stacks of dog-eared UFO magazines: they all appeared on episodes of the show, says Back Gallery Project's director Monica Reyes. "Everything," she says. "You can't replicate any of this."

Mulder's office, tidy at last. Installation view at Vancouver's Back Gallery Project. (Photo: Byron Dauncy/Courtesy of Back Gallery Project)

The X-Files connection

If that name sounds weirdly familiar, yes, Monica Reyes is an X-Files character. Or, rather, Carter named agent Monica Reyes (played by Annabeth Gish) after the Back Gallery Project's founder and director. The two have been pals, she says, for more than 20 years.

When the X-Files arrived in Vancouver back in 1993, Carter was a regular at the Gastown cafe where Reyes worked, and they struck up a friendship — though she says she didn't really get into the show until her TV double turned up in Season 8. "I was a Millennium fan," she laughs. 

Since 2013, her Back Gallery Project has operated in the city's Strathcona neighbourhood, and before it found a brick-and-mortar location, she says Carter was a patron. "He's been a supporter of the gallery in various ways," says Reyes. The 2008 X-Files movie I Want to Believe rented several pieces from her gallery for the set, for example, including work by Vancouver artist Cam Andrews.

This isn't their first X-Files exhibition in the space, either. In 2016, Back Gallery Project hosted a show featuring items from Season 10, the six-episode reboot that brought the TV production back to Vancouver for the first time since the late '90s.

Why not take it to Comic Con?

As for why Carter's personal stash of props wound up appearing at Back Gallery Project and not, say, Fan Expo Vancouver, Reyes says that showing it at a gallery was his idea. "He said, 'I have all these items. I would like to do some sort of exhibition with you.' And he started having his assistant dropping boxes here of material," she says.

De-classified props. (Photo: Byron Dauncey/Back Gallery Project)

Visitors to the gallery are welcome to interact with just about everything on display, says Reyes. The actual "X-files" are some of her favourite props. "I was mesmerized — mesmerized — by the calibre of detail with the files."

Everything appearing in the exhibition is also for sale, including a collection of assorted memorabilia from the series' run — scripts and street signs, for example, the sort of production artifacts that superfans used to rummage through dumpsters to score.

Carter donated everything, Reyes says, and proceeds will fund the gallery's programming. Online sales held earlier this year have auctioned off smaller items like Mulder's coffee mug ($90) and a pack of medical files ($95), and another lot — including Carter's personal copy of the show's final script — is expected to become available after the exhibition closes June 30.

Chris Carter's copy of the final X-Files script. (Photo: Byron Dauncey/Back Gallery Project)

The most notable items — Mulder's desk and chairs — have already sold for an undisclosed amount. Says Reyes: "We found a buyer in the States who's going to bring it into the Comic Cons, as far as I know" — a sliver of hope for anyone who misses this selfie opportunity in Vancouver.

End of an era

This will be the last X-Files exhibition at Back Gallery Project, Reyes says. "This is it," she say. "After this one, there's going to be nothing left to show, in a way." And the event coincides with a major moment in the show's history.

The eleventh season wrapped this spring, and as the Fox network confirmed earlier this month, it won't return for another run. Even in the event of yet another franchise reboot, star Gillian Anderson announced that her X-Files days are done for good.

Says Reyes: "It's kind of symbolic, I think, that 25 years after — when the show is no longer carrying on — that we're giving this opportunity to the fans."

Mulder's FBI intermural trophies. Typos intentional? (Photo: Byron Dauncey/Back Gallery Project)
In addition to Mulder's office, Back Gallery Project is also showing an assortment of memorabilia from the show's production. The hanging signs would have directed cast and crew to set. (Photo: Byron Dauncey/Back Gallery Project)

And the exhibition, she says, is meant to be a tribute not just to the X-Files, but also to the film industry that it helped cultivate in Vancouver.

Though the show moved to L.A. by the end of Season 5, the X-Files's impact on the B.C. film industry has been cited since the beginning. Carter was even honoured by the B.C. government in 2008 for the show's role in establishing Vancouver as a major destination for film and TV projects. (It's actually the third-largest centre for production in North America, according to the Vancouver Economic Commission. Some 407 productions, the X-Files included, shot in the city in 2016, with $2.6 billion spent on production province-wide that year.)

On June 30, Carter will be in the gallery for a meet-and-greet with visitors. The event is free, but guests must reserve spots in advance. Reyes says that they'll be admitting small groups into the space between 1-4 p.m. To register, fans should email the gallery at info@backgalleryproject.com.

(Fox)

The Making of the X-Files. To June 30 at Back Gallery Project, Vancouver. www.backgalleryproject.com 

About the Author

Leah Collins

Leah Collins is the Senior Writer at CBC Arts.

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