The Shape of Play,” a new art installation on Boston’s waterfront, links the feeling and notion of freedom with pure and joyous play. The creation of Sari Carel, an Israeli artist living in Brooklyn, Jewish Arts Collaborative (JArts) and public art organization Now + There are jointly presenting Carel’s work.

On the heels of 2019’s successful “Pathways to Freedom,” this is the second major public art project that JArts has sponsored. “The Shape of Play” was initially scheduled to debut last spring in time for Passover. Laura Mandel, executive director of JArts, told JewishBoston that the project was placed on hold because of the pandemic. “We knew we wanted to bring it back as soon as possible,” Mandel said. “With people in prolonged quarantine, they needed something positive that takes place outdoors. Although the project’s original intent was to evoke freedom, the project took on different resonances given current events and COVID-19.”

Mandel said that while the initial call for a second public art piece was intended to capture the notion of freedom, she was pleased that Carel’s work highlighted the inextricable yet often overlooked relationship between freedom and play. In an interview with JewishBoston, Carel said that play encapsulates freedom. “The freedom to play in an open-ended, non-directed way is essential to our well-being as individuals and communities,” she said. “You can also talk about the idea of freedom within Judaism in many different ways. Passover is just one instance where freedom is considered, celebrated, given a story and an image.”

“The Shape of Play” is as much about the abstract wooden sculptures Carel has created as it is about the soundscapes that accompany each piece. She described the process of marrying sounds to art as “highly experimental.” She also noted that the accompanying soundtrack is particular to Boston. Carel went to four distinct Boston-area playgrounds in East Boston, Mattapan, Cambridge and West Newton to collect the sounds. “We wanted to generate a variety of sounds by using drumsticks, as well as our feet and our bodies,” she said. “Different materials like stones and leaves make very different sounds.”

When Carel was satisfied that she had a “rich library” of sounds, she went into the studio and listened to many hours of the recordings. She described the editing process as joyful and, indeed, playful, and observed that a degree of playfulness is inherent in making art. “You have to let yourself play when being creative,” she said. “I started playing around with the sounds and moving them around as if they were a collage, as if they were the [aural] equivalent of various shapes and colors. I don’t think it’s possible to collage things without maintaining a sense of play and playfulness.”

Mandel added that the playground is the ideal space to play with ideas of freedom. “The playground is such a democratic place,” she said. “It means different things to different people, the same way that freedom means different things to people. Playgrounds are generational. People of all ages can enjoy a playground, and Sari’s goal was to explore that idea.”

Exploring the concept of freedom by using the playground as a metaphor is a radical act in a pandemic. With playgrounds currently blocked off with caution tape, play is restricted for children and adults. Carel said “The Shape of Play” is novel for the way it has “designated traditional spaces for art as a museum or gallery would be.” She added: “This installation is about constantly having this very lively relationship with all the sounds of things around it that I have very little control over. I like the chaos that comes with being in a nonconventional space. I like the unpredictability. I like that it’s a conversation and an effort to reach out to other worlds in order to have a variety of dialogues.”

When asked if the deaf community can meaningfully partake in conversations about “The Shape of Play,” Carel said the work has a strong visual element and people can feel the vibrations of the various sounds in the installation. “It’s a collaboration with everyone in the audience,” she said.

Carel’s previous public art installation in 2018, “Out of Thin Air,” was also experimental and displayed in New York’s City Hall Park. It was exclusively a sound installation that invited people to think about breathing “in all its intimacy and enormity.” Carel’s intent was to address air quality and related illness, such as emphysema. The recording was drawn from sounds that included rustles, crackles, beats, huffs and city sounds while focusing on inhaling and exhaling. In other ways, “The Shape of Play” showcases the consequences of airborne illness.

Mandel pointed out that experiencing “The Shape of Play” further highlights the concept of freedom “as an important Jewish value that shows the strength of Boston’s Jewish community as they engage in various conversations about freedom.” As for bringing forward art in the autumn that corresponds to freedom, Carel said, “Thinking about freedom is relevant in every season.”

“The Shape of Play” is on display until Oct. 31, 2020, at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park.