February 26, 2014 | 4 Comments

Vegetarian Tooth (Susana Soares)

From the curators: Susana Soares created the Vegetarian Tooth in response to the environmental violence of intensive animal farming for meat consumption. Using stem cell theories developed to rebuild decaying teeth in elderly people, this prototype tooth is designed to be implanted and fully functional within two months. The cap of the design is reflective of the patterns found on an herbivore’s tooth structure, which have evolved in such a way that they easily grind plant material. Soares’s work provokes awareness around contemporary concerns over the links between global food resources, climate change, and the politics of resource distribution. Could future trips to the dentist shift from a focus on our own discomfort or beauty to the well-being of our planet? Artist Maira Kalman has responded to Soares’a provocation with work of her own: an autobiographical poem and illustration.

My ancient aunt Tilleh, with the pince-nez, mustache and hairy wart, was a dentist.
She invited us to her apartment for dinner and served meatloaf festively sprinkled with colored cookie crumbs.
(That is reason enough to stop eating meat, but that did not stop us. We devoured brisket and hamburgers and hot dogs like nobody’s business.)
Anyway, her apartment was vast and dark. In one section was her dentist’s office, which looked more like a torture chamber to me.
The prickly mustache would get closer and closer. I would go into a panic. A tooth pulled. Darkness. Despair. Pain.
Who else had their teeth pulled? My poor father, who had dementia.
His teeth were pulled in order to get a set of false teeth. But he never got them.
No no no, I can’t bear it.
Perhaps if I promise to eat fewer hamburgers, that might help.
But pulling my teeth will not save the world.


Maira Kalman (Israeli, b. 1949). We Ate Meat. 2013. Gouache on paper, 15.3 x 11.2″ (38.9 x 28.4cm). Image courtesy of the artist


How far should we humans be willing to go to minimize our impact on the planet's ecosystems?

  1. March 1, 2014, 2:04 am

    Anne Swartz

    Technology and all

    But this does seem a little far to go.

  2. March 1, 2014, 2:32 pm



    The piece is provoking, as is the fact that the tooth will be implanted- or the very thought of mass producing an item like it. It functions perfectly as a statement- easily inviting conflicting parties to open a controversial debate- on the environmental impact of our eating habits, human biological need of eating meet, boundaries on body modification, etc.

    Its power resides in the conclusions that could be drawn from the debate, in the real actions that could derive from such discussion. That makes it an object worth approaching for analysis- as many of the pieces in the “Design and Violence” series. If a tooth’s anatomy could be questioned, I guess, is a very different story!

  3. March 24, 2014, 1:25 pm

    Jessy Smith


    While I appreciate the notion of redesigning a human tooth— there’s something here I think was overlooked. Especially since the artist has stated her intent to actually grow these teeth, I assume that they’ll function as regular teeth do. I worry that the grooves shown here will be reservoirs for plaque and cause rapid tooth decay. How would one maintain teeth designed like this? We’d need a whole new set of tools for dental hygiene.

  4. February 9, 2017, 1:48 am


    Son of a gun, this i

    Son of a gun, this is so hefulpl!