The Cat and the Coup

Peter Brinson und Kurosh ValeNejad – 2011

A room with a man in a white suit, a black cat sitting on a shelf and black stains on the floor

Plummeting backwards through time, in »The Cat and the Coup« players turn into the pets of politics and experience world history from a four-legged perspective.

As a cat, they solve various puzzles that gradually, in a tale told in revers order, document first the death of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, then his house arrest and prison sentence, then the coup, and finally his time as Prime Minister. The Iranian prime minister, whose role remains contentious to this day, came to power in 1951 and was deposed in 1953 in a coup orchestrated by the US and British intelligence services.

His life story forms the basis for the documentary game »The Cat and the Coup«. The documentary game genre continues to be a serious challenge to game developers. It is difficult to combine an interactive experience based on self-efficacy with unalterable historical facts. The developers of the game found an unusual solution to this dilemma by deciding to let the players act in Mossadegh’s life story only as his pets and animal companions. […] The individual segments f the game are suffused with a poetic and mysterious aura and are partly surreal in character, notably in the fact that most of the British and US game figures have animal heads while Mossadegh appears as a normal human being.

[…] It was only two years after »The Cat and the Coup« was published and precisely 60 years after the coup against Mossadegh, that the CIA publically acknowledged its leading involvement in these events. In an essay two years prior to the game´s launch, Slavoj Žižek compared the current political situation in Iran tot hat of a cat walking across an abyss but that would plummet to the ground only if it looked down and realized how far below it was. The game expresses this special feeling of plummeting, of plummeting backwards through time.

Text by Sophie Rau und Stephan Schwingeler, published in »Games and Politics. An interactive exhibition by the Goethe-Institut in cooperation with ZKM I Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe«, exhibition catalogue, Goethe-Institute, Munich 2016.