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The Return Makes Its Highly Anticipated Premiere

Meryl Cates
July 10, 2015

The live performer portraying "Adam" during rehearsal for The Return.
The live performer portraying "Adam" during rehearsal for The Return. Photo courtesy of Met Museum Presents

«Reid Farrington's The Return is being described as a digital performance installation primarily because that's a more concise way of stating what it really is: a groundbreaking new work that simply must be experienced live. Combining animation technology and continuous live performance, The Return will run during Museum hours for twenty-three days—beginning tomorrow, July 11, through August 2. Commissioned by Met Museum Presents, Farrington's work investigates dynamically the twelve-year restoration of Tullio Lombardo's shattered sculptural masterpiece, Adam (ca. 1490–95), now located in gallery 504, Venetian Sculpture of the Renaissance.»

Farrington's work will offer a new experience for Museum visitors through its pioneering use of interactive digital theater. To mount this production, work began on June 30 with the initial load in of all the equipment, and since then the project has been carefully orchestrated, with rehearsals taking place right up until the premiere.

Time-lapse video of the rehearsal process in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. Video by Thomas Ling

The entire creative process began well before that, however, as Farrington (who was behind Tyson vs. Ali, a 2014 installation at Performance Space 122) and a team of animators and software developers undertook eighteen months of intensive research, working in close collaboration with curators from the Met's Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts to develop this intricate performance installation.

Tragically, in 2002, the modern pedestal on which Adam stood buckled and the sculpture fell to the floor, breaking into more than two hundred fragments. It took twelve years to restore the sculpture using methods that were technically arduous. The Return creatively (and sometimes humorously) parallels the statue's fall from its pedestal with the biblical narrative of Adam's fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. With a digital avatar seen through a life-size digital "window" in the gallery, a performer "docent" will lead visitors through an extraordinary and creative story arc scripted by Sara Farrington. Museumgoers will hear from a variety of characters: Biblical Adam; Tullio Lombardo's Adam; and the "Adam" avatar inspired by the digital Adam that Met scientists and conservators created to rehearse the restoration process.

The digital avatar of "Adam" comes alive during rehearsals in gallery 504.
The digital avatar of "Adam" comes alive during rehearsals in gallery 504. Photo courtesy of Met Museum Presents

Additionally, for a behind-the-scenes experience, the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium will be open to visitors so they can see the live performer portraying "Adam" suiting up in a motion-sensor jumpsuit and the team of technical operators controlling what is being seen in the gallery space. This view will be live streamed throughout the installation's run.

The Return is free with Museum admission and is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Tullio Lombardo's Adam: A Masterpiece Restored, which was on view from November 11, 2014, through June 14, 2015.

Meryl Cates

Meryl Cates is a senior publicist in the Communications Department.