Project Summery

Why is there a "clicking" sound around the reindeers?
Reindeers make a distinct "clicking" sound by moving the tendons across a tiny additional bone structure in the lower part of their legs.

I heard the sound some years ago and it has stayed with me. Asking scientists and researchers as well as experienced reindeer herders, they all could confirm the sound. Looking into various scientific fields searching for a possible entrance to the topic, I found more or less nothing explaining, why the reindeers created this "clicking"-sounds?

The reindeers and communication
Reindeers have highly developed sensory system and cognition skills e.g. memory, location and orientation. But how do they "click"? Not much is said about the clicking, but so far the Elan male Antilope does create a click in the front knees which can be audible 100-200 meters away. The reindeer click is from one of some very few studies indicating to be created in the forelegs and not as I thought in the hinter legs:

"The common digital extensor tendon is a thin, flat band which runs superficially along the dorsal surface of the metapodial, bifurcating at the fetlock joint into the digital extensor tendons for digits III and IV. Deep to this, the lateral and medial digital extensors run, crossing the joint and housing, in the forelimb, the dorsomedial sesamoid bones, one on each digit. These small bones act as miniature patellae, facilitating the extension of the first phalanx at the metacarpophalangeal joint (Hull 2019). It is speculated that the movement of this bone across the joint which creates the distinctive “clicking” noise that heralds reindeer movement, although further research into the physiology is needed."

Many questions arise: is it both males and females who create the click? My impression is both do. And, why this clicking? To me it is quite clear that the clicking is part of the communication system of the reindeers. Could it be the herds way of keeping the group together at night or in snowy weather using sound rather than their eyesight and smell when it is impossible either see or smell? Is it willingly or automatically created?

The art project, what will it become?
The artistic outcome will be an outdoor sound installation and in combination with some indoor sculptural elements. Solar panel and wind turbine secure the energy supply in a sustainable way and guarantee the show can be located almost anywhere outside.

Methods and collaborations
I will continue to establish collaboration and/or interaction with scientists and particular reindeer herders with their unique knowledge and experience with the reindeers, the landscapes and the local context. Their responses will have major impact on the examinations and understanding of the results and further developments.

Artist networks are evident in the project, for the exchange of ideas and experiences and exhibitions, workshops, talks etc. and to have them happen. "Changes on Northern Shores – Observing Problems through Art" is one new network group I have joined and find interesting to be part of.

Øystein Holand, professor at the Nordic Center of Excellence in Arctic Research/Ås referred me to Inge Even Danielsen, who is a major key person to me and the project. He is southern Sami reindeer shepherd and an important voice within the Sami community Gråebrie Sijti. Thanks to him I´m able to visit the reindeers in Brekken 2-3 times a year since 2019.

My methods used to examine the "click" are field recordings sitting by the herd within the fences when they are gathered 3 timea a year. I use a shutgun and stereo mics. Additional methods are observations, conversations and interviews and will be documented in papers, photos, videos and sound recordings. Gained information and knowledge will determine how the project progresses, however the "clicking" will remain the focus point around which the project spins.

Theories, complexity and my role
Theories and models serve a function primarily as inspiration, since I enjoy reading them but some can also work as an overall frame to examine and understand the complexity of the "clicking". But an important part of why I engage in theoretical interest is concerned with a more critical view upon how the traditional western academic tradition works and what determines the focus of the sciences and their chosen research methods. So as for the reindeers most research is concerned with mating and to me a rather rigid idea of selection and little about communication within the herd in the daily life of the reindeers. My hypothesis is that the reindeers have a very important and complex ways of communicating using a complexed system of signals not only to mate but when moving over long distances in a varied terrain and weather conditions. Many questions are unanswered and the science does not know. The Sami has no obvious reason to question a singular sound like the clicking. Click has been a very natural audible part of herding reindeers always. To me their knowledge is evident and we do investigate sometimes together, because if anyone knows, they do!

Anthropology is influencing my way of working and has been used to examine the Sami culture from different angles and the struggles the reindeers encounter in the Nordic countries, a complexed situation facing huge changes. Other related influences are the Anthropocene but the project touches upon a variety of theoretical fields such as history, archeology, nature science (zoology, biology etc) as well as human and folklore sciences.

To me the science and it´s methods are quite rigid in terms of which fields they choose to research and how they are doing so. These are aspects I try to bring forward in my sound installations and symphony later in 2024.

My position is "unclear" in the sense that I enter a dense cultural field undergoing huge challenges and changes - a complexity I recognize but also feel quite overwhelmed by and where my "role" is at question! Still, I hope by raising the reindeers voices the attention can be pointed towards this magnificent animal and the Sami culture.

Link: Tendons and ligaments of the Rangifer tarandus metapodial and hoof Emily Hull1 · Mitchell Semeniuk2 ·
Hanna?Leena Puolakka1 · Sanna?Mari Kynkäänniemi1 · Sirpa Niinimäki1
Received: 13 November 2019 / Revised: 8 July 2021 / Accepted: 16 July 2021 / Published online: 26 July 2021 © The Author(s) 2021