During the Middle Ages, the heart was thought of as a book. It was considered to be the center of our being and the locus of cognition and emotion – where our memories and experiences were recorded. Even the word, “re-cord,” reflects this concept – cord being Latin for heart. Reading, primarily done aloud, was described as “a murmur of meditation,” and was used as a mnemonic device. The reader, it was believed, awakened the words, and the act of reading itself was an embodied experience. Words and meaning were thought of materially, and as such, were incorporated into the body and inscribed upon the heart.
Conjugation references these ideas and centers on the nature of being. It is performed as a durational reading with the public, and as with other magical propositions, relies on the combination of rhetorical speech, ritual action, and material metaphor. By imposing a ritual framework on ordinary speech, a grammatical conjugation becomes an incantation. The recitation and repetition transforms the tenses of our most common verb into an existential, epic poem, with the capacity to bring something into being – mutuality, empathy, and the possibility of internalizing another’s experience. When the two (or more) readers, simultaneously recite the past, present, and future tenses of “to be,” a space is opened and held by the readers. Binaries of past and future, self and other, beings and things, are collapsed into the present moment, and it is in the subjunctive, the “what if” and “as if,” that all things become possible.