Lying Flat

tywen kelly
3 min readAug 30, 2021



“Lying Flat” 2021, in a baseball field in Seattle

Sometimes it is good to lay down, and instead of expelling heat, allow oneself to soak it in.

The title Lying Flat comes from a movement in China today, Tang Ping (躺平). Many workers are exhausted by the “996” culture–9AM to 9PM 6 days a week–and other intense pressures of privatized competition, and are deciding to opt out of it and do nothing. Lying on the ground became the symbol for an active form of protest.

Heatsinks are a crucial component in computer hardware: they allow processing chips to cool off and stop them from melting themselves. By flipping the customary role of heatsinks which is to dissipate work, and instead absorb leisure by doing nothing, Lying Flat sets a model for being that does not emphasize producing outputs, emitting quantities, or generating data, and instead emphasizes enjoying ephemera, absorbing qualities, and expanding imagination.

In Purisima Reserve, CA, amongst the redwoods

Lying Flat is an ephemeral sculpture made up of recycled heatsinks, generously donated by Living Green Technology in Seattle. The sculpture moves around in the trunk of my car as a pile of parts, which I take out and install on-location in the forest, at the beach, in the park, or wherever I find myself unwinding. Installation takes a meditation 30 minutes to an hour. Afterwards, if there’s room, and if I’m feeling brave enough, I’ll lay down next to Lying Flat. Afterwards I’ll snap a few pictures around it.

I have some of my best ideas when I do nothing. The ideas I generate in a rush while in the flow of creation are different than the ones I get when I’m on a wandering walk or driving home from work. Too often I find myself in the former situation. I’m overly eager to jump to the next task. Part of making this sculpture is the performance of taking my time to set the pieces, then when it’s done, do nothing alongside it. The time it takes to set up is the right amount of time for me to get into a meditative state. After taking my pictures of the sculpture I have little desire to do anything else, I feel done in the sense where I’m not ticking an item off a list, but done as if the list never existed.

On a rocky beach in Ballard, Seattle

Heatsinks are beautiful piece of computer equipment. They’re aggressively analog, made up of highly conductive aluminum and designed to have as much surface area as possible, and are attached to some of the most highly engineered digital equipment on the Earth. They have always been manufacture to be a kind of mystic medium, enabling the fair passage of the digital through into the atomic universe. Without a heatsink a computer chip would destroy itself. They have also been designed to transmit heat from a CPU. But they easily have the capability to absorb heat from the environment. Some days my body likes a heatsink, my body a marionette for my mind at work. It’s healthy to want to reverse that flow, and allow the mind to yield to the body and do nothing.

Installed at a Gray Area showcase, 2021