On 3d gravity as a Chern-Simons theory and its holographic relation to a 2d CFT boundary field theory (well before AdS/CFT was conceived from string theory):
Stanley Deser, Roman Jackiw, Gerard 't Hooft, Three-dimensional Einstein gravity: Dynamics of flat space, Ann. Phys. 152 (1984) 220 (doi:10.1016/0003-4916(84)90085-X)
Stanley Deser, Roman Jackiw, Three-dimensional cosmological gravity: Dynamics of constant curvature, Annals of Physics, Volume 153, Issue 2, 1 April 1984, Pages 405-416 (doi:10.1016/0003-4916(84)90025-3, spire:192694)
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