Growing Teeth

Sara Drake & Nina Sarnelle

A public syllabus created from the conversations and research conducted by this 3-month group project. Growing Teeth was held online in the winter of 2020/21, and hosted by Virtual Care Lab. It brought together 5-15 community members at a time to discuss and explore questions we share about the aging process and our collective futures. It also sought to connect this inquiry to existing forms of organized struggle, articulating power relations and inequalities, and building solidarity with movements for racial justice, disability rights, indigenous sovereignty, labor rights and healthcare advocacy.

Below is our opening statement of purpose for Growing Teeth.


Many US euphemisms for aging come from horses. Domesticated horses have their own retirement home industry; horse-owners may spend hundreds or thousands of dollars/month caring for a horse in a faraway pasture once it’s body-mind is no longer capable of performing labor. Growing Teeth seeks to challenge a normative relationship between ability and work, while dreaming up utopian models for communal aging.

Many cultural workers are precarious and don’t have a 401K. Many are in debt and financial planning for the future is out of reach. Many have complex relationships to their biological family with no plans to make children of their own, instead building their own chosen kinships. This research project starts from the premise that US society does not provide adequate support for the elderly. How might we collectivize around meaningful mutual aid? How might we form a community for our future(s) with aging in mind based on shared values and critical, creative engagement? Together, we will gather resources and host conversations around alternative ways of planning for old age with a focus on cooperative structures.

This project was created by Sara Drake & Nina Sarnelle in response to NOW WHAT open call written by Anise S. Hines Theus, Daleen Saah, Jasmine Lin, and Joal Stein.

Sara Drake is an artist and writer interrogating our relationship to the future. How do the stories we tell ourselves about the future shape how we live together in the present? When does the future become the past? And what are the consequences of losing a sense of the future? Using novel technology such as 3D printing and game engines, Drake create sculptures, animations and interactive experiences that question narratives of progress and techno-optimism that are often presented as inevitable. She received her MFA from UCLA’s Design Media Arts program and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Nina Sarnelle is an artist and musician living on stolen Tongva/Kizh/Chumash land that is often referred to as Los Angeles. She earned a BA from Oberlin College and an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in 2012. A founding member of artist collectives the Institute for New Feeling and dadpranks, her work includes intimate participatory performances, large public events, music composition, video and sculpture.