I fulfilled my personal promise that I would go around Brooklyn in case I would return to New York. Brooklyn was the dynamic and remarkable borough I failed to visit the first time I toured NYC.
One goal out of this fulfilment was to check on the chic and chichi Brooklyn Museum, one of the largest and oldest museums in the United States. But prior to entering the fine-looking museum, one would have to inescapably notice two giant letters. It is unavoidably apparent because the figure is about 8 feet in height, 17 feet wide and it is flamboyantly bright yellow in color.
Entitled “OY/YO” by artist Deborah Kass is a giant pop-art sculpture that is part of the public art display of the Brooklyn Museum. And everybody who got to step into the Brooklyn Museum for the first time, for sure, has a photo with this iconic sculpture. I of course had mine!
Let me then relay my rumination about this piece of art. OY/YO for me presents the onlooker with an abundance of meaning. This seemingly simple yet humongous sculpture can resonate in different languages. It can speak to onlookers may they have differing cultural, linguistic, social and ethnic background.
Spanish speakers for one may read it as “I am” since YO is the Spanish word for I am. But people from Portugal and Brazil may perceive it as saying “Hi” since OY is the Portuguese word for “hi”. While Americans (especially African Americans) may see it differently because YO has evolved as a common and informal salutation among these people. Yes, yes, Yo!
In Somali OY is a word meaning vote! Lithuanians and Yiddish speaking folks on the other hand may regard it as OY since Oy is the word they use for expressing disappointment and annoyance. OY in Armenian, Uzbek and Azerbaijani according to Google translate is the English word for month.
But for me, as a Filipino, OY/YO the sculpture would speak in both ways. It is acceptable in both forms, as Oy and as Yo. Similar to the American salutation, Filipino folks especially the hip-hop and rapper class would also use YO as an informal salutation. It is like saying “Hey” in a friendly manner.
But once upset, irritated and wants to confront someone, Filipinos (may they belong to hip-hop, pop, disco, techno or other freaking genre) would address that someone as OY. Oy is also like saying “Hey” but in an ill-mannered cheeky tone. And once Oy is uttered to you several times by a Filipino in a crude and threatening tone like Oy! Oy! Oy! Oy! Oy! This would mean you must have been caught from some kind of trouble and needs to pay for the repercussions that you seem to have done.
So it is just but fitting for OY/YO to actually be placed and exhibited in NYC, Brooklyn Museum in particular. It is because NYC is considered the cultural melting pot of the planet. Everybody in NYC seem to know and speak a second language. And OY/YO the sculpture can symbolize the multi-linguistic representation of everyone in NYC. I am so fortunate to have bumped into such a vivacious kind of a sculpture.
And if OY/YO would have the opportunity to visit Manila, this sculpture would definitely be a big talk of the town because it has meanings and can definitely resonate something to a Filipino like me.
Yes, yes, yo! Oy, oy, oy!