The Cat and the Coup

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The Cat and the Coup

2007-2013
Tools and Equipment
Interactive non-fiction videogame, archival inkjet prints; oversized magnifying glass, fur
Size and duration variable
Gift of the artists (M.2014.65.1-.8)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

The Cat and the Coup is a nonfiction videogame using the conceit of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected and subsequently deposed prime minister of Iran, 1952-53....
The Cat and the Coup is a nonfiction videogame using the conceit of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected and subsequently deposed prime minister of Iran, 1952-53. Players take on the role of Mossadegh’s cat as it navigates the events of Mossadegh’s life through six “puzzle rooms” that move in a reverse chronological order from his death to his election as Iranian Prime Minister, crafting a narrative arc from tragedy to triumph in his life before the 1953 CIA-engineered coup leading to the demise of Mossadegh. By solving each puzzle in the interactive rooms, an experience made more humorous and engaging by the inclusion of trivial moments and activities, like placing objects on shelves, Mossadegh can then proceed to the next room, implying a move to the next historical chapter. Produced in one continuous take, scenes from Mossadegh’s life are rendered into a fresh, new composition through the aesthetic of Persian miniature painting transformed into a virtual, three-dimensional form, creating a tension between the past and present of Iran. The depiction of Mossadegh is inspired by the Iranian artist and political satirist Ardeshir Mohassess, known for his political cartoons documenting Iranian political turmoil. Other key actors in the 1953 coup are also metaphorically present in The Cat and the Coup through various likenesses, such as the CIA agent as a toad, the Iranian General as a pig, the Shah as a peacock, Winston Churchill as a bulldog, and Harry Truman as a rabbit; the choices of animals are coded to metaphorically represent their role in Mossadegh’s life and downfall. Through an engaging, interactive game that forms a relationship between the player and Mossadegh, implying a larger engagement between the US and Iran, viewers learn about an important event in Iranian history and its Cold War dynamics that ultimately led to the Iranian Revolution in 1979. ValaNejad and Brinson created their game at the University of Southern California. While a version of the game along with screenshots and drafts of its development are a part of LACMA’s collection, a version of the game is widely available on most popular gaming platforms.
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