Metropolitan Museum of Art
Venetian Sculpture of the Renaissance (Gallery 504)
Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Daily through August 2, free with recommended admission $12-$25
the return slideshow
A museum disaster, a literal “fall of Adam,” has led to one of the Met’s most intriguing new pieces and a surprising venture into both digital and performance art. In October 2002, Tullio Lombardo’s late-fifteenth-century marble statue of Adam collapsed to the ground and shattered into more than two hundred fragments, its pedestal giving way to its half-ton weight. In reconstructing what Met assistant curator calls “the most important sculpture from Renaissance Venice to be found outside that city today,” the museum employed digital technology that new media artist Reid Farrington has transformed into an educational and very entertaining interactive two-part installation. Farrington has previously used multiple screens and live performers in such presentations as Tyson vs. Ali (a fictional bout between the two champions), The Passion Project (reimagining Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 film, The Passion of Joan of Arc), and Gin & “It” (a complex behind-the-scenes staging of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope). Now he brings the restoration of “Adam” back to life with the interactive performance installation “The Return.” In the specially designed Gallery 504, “Adam,” which was commissioned for the tomb of Venice doge Andrea Vendramin, stands atop a new base, an apple in his left hand, his right hand clutching a bare branch of the Tree of Knowledge. Also in the room is a large-scale two-sided monitor that is like a supersized iPhone in which an animated Biblical Adam and a digital avatar of the sculpture discuss free will, determinism, God, compression and shearing, and other lofty subjects with an actor-docent (Cara Francis, Catherine Gowl, or Stephanie Regina), who navigates the performance by focusing on the museum’s groundbreaking reconstruction of the sculpture in brief, ever-changing explanations of specific parts of the sculpture, including the elbow, the torso, and the upper tree trunk. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the digital performer and the docent, so every performance is slightly different.
The Adams are sometimes wandering a van Gogh-like field and at other times immersed in a digital realm inhabited by falling 0s and 1s. The movement of the Adams is performed by an actor (Roger Casey, Jack Frederick, or Gavin Price) in a motion-capture suit in the nearby Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, where everyone is invited to watch him in action, surrounded by numerous monitors, including one showing what is being seen on the screen in the gallery, controlled by a pair of technicians. The Adams and the docent also delve into the nature of sin and the meaning behind the fig leaf while relating Adam’s physical fall from its podium to his metaphorical fall from grace in the Bible and comparing God’s creation to that of the artist. (The script was written by Farrington’s wife, playwright Sara Farrington.) Make sure to check out both sides of the monitor, which reveal the two Adams’ front and back. “The Return” is a fascinating way to explore a work of art; in this case, it came about because of an accident, but it could very well be the next wave of how we look at and think about art. An appendage to the recent exhibit “Tullio Lombardo’s Adam: A Masterpiece Restored,” which closed on June 14, the performance, which playfully evokes the 1982 sci-fi classic Tron, takes place daily from 12:45 to 2:15, as well as from 4:30 to 6:00 on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free; you can also follow all the fascinating action online via the Met’s live stream.