PE.910 | January IAP 2002 | Undergraduate

Physical Intelligence


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week for 5 weeks, 1 hour / session

Course Description

Physical Intelligence classes take an experiential approach to the investigation and application of our innate ability to learn physical skills. Philosophically, the curriculum is founded on the premise that physical education is more than strength training, flexibility and aerobic fitness; physical education is also the development of our ability to access and benefit from the physical intelligence of the human organism.

The core of the Physical Intelligence program is a three-semester curriculum that uses the MIT gymnastics gym as a laboratory to introduce and develop physical intelligence, and then to apply the experience to academic pursuits. Selected readings and discussions combine with experience-based learning leading not only to the development of balance, agility, flexibility and strength, but to a deep appreciation for the reciprocity of mind and body that suggests physical intelligence as a powerful complement to cognitive intelligence.

In the research that takes place at MIT the body is present as an object of study but is all but unrecognized as an important dimension of our intelligence and experience. Yet the body is the very basis of our experience in the world; it is the very foundation on which cognitive intelligence is built. Though we appear to move beyond such physical learning early in life, our thinking, learning and understanding are constantly referencing this experiential base, aptly reflected in the Mens et Manus motto of the Institute.

About the Instructor

Noah Riskin

Noah Riskin studied painting and trained in gymnastics at Ohio State University, 1981-86. In 1985 he shared the NCAA national title on the parallel bars with his identical twin, Seth, and led Ohio State to its first NCAA Team Championship. In 1986 he received his BFA degree.

Noah continued his athletic career to become a US Men’s National Gymnastics Team member, and a national and international champion. In 1993, as a Merit Scholar, he received his MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. And, from 1994-97 he was a research affiliate and fellow at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies. 1998-2000 Noah was Faculty in the Integrated Media and Dance Departments at The California Institute of the Arts where he developed and taught “Technology and the Body,” a three course curriculum exploring the meeting of technology and the body for performance.

Noah has presented his art and lectures at venues as diverse as the Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland, the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University, and the Exploratorium in San Francisco. He has taught at Tufts University, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Rhode Island School of Design, The California Institute of the Arts, and MIT.

Currently, Noah continues his art, research and teaching as the Head Men’s Gymnastics Coach, Physical Education Instructor, co-Director of the DAPER/Edgerton Center’s d’Arbeloff High-speed Imaging Grant Project at MIT, and creator of the Physical Intelligence Initiative.

This summer, as a resident fellow at the Northwood University Alden B. Dow Creativity Center, Noah is pursuing his artwork and research on the subject of twins, leading to the production of Gemini, a performance scheduled for November ‘96 at P.S. 122 in New York as part of a Franklin Furnace “emerging artists” performance series.