Interview with Dmitry Znamensky, co-founder of SETUP.

SDM: You made the set for the Printworks closing night unique. How was it to design within one of the contemporary temples of electronic music?

DZ: It was a great honor for us. Recently, it was revealed that Printworks has been named the second best club in the industry by Dj Mag in 2023. This recognition solidifies its status as one of the finest venues worldwide. It is truly remarkable how, within a span of six or seven years, the club has attained legendary status in its field. From its musical policy and selection to the organization of processes, design, and self-presentation, Printworks excels in every aspect. As artists, we feel immensely privileged to have been invited to perform at the closing event of this iconic space — a symbolic moment of great significance. Being entrusted with the task of creating a grand finale for such renowned establishments, with their rich history, is truly remarkable. Despite the multitude of talented stage artists and designers across the globe, they specifically chose us. We hope this selection signifies that our contributions and accomplishments are valued and appreciated.

SDM: The industrial architecture of the venue goes hand in hand with electronic music. Is there a particular thread that allows you to better blend this mix through lighting installation and visuals?

DZ: SETUP possesses extensive experience in working with a diverse range of electronic music genres, particularly within industrial spaces. Our background includes organizing events in various factories, which has provided us with a deep understanding and appreciation for the aesthetics and ambiance that permeate such venues. This approach does not rely on specific techniques, but rather on our aesthetic guidelines and sensibilities. Our primary objective is to create an event that feels alive. To achieve this, we carefully design and program the show to have an organic quality. We incorporate generative content and often use generative lighting that dynamically responds to the content. For us, each event or party is akin to a performance, a carefully prepared improvisation. We consistently strive for every gathering to be a unique and immersive experience, one that unfolds in the present moment, allowing people to truly feel and engage with it.

SDM: Your work always seeks innovation and experimentation. What is the secret for a young team of passionate designers to create sets experienced by thousands of people?

DZ: The main secret, which is actually not a secret at all, is that we have personally grown up within this culture. We have experienced being in the audience, dancing, and participating in numerous techno raves and nocturnal events. As a result, we create what we would genuinely enjoy if we were in the shoes of the audience. It is crucial to pursue what truly resonates with us. We cannot simply follow someone else's lead or compromise our artistic integrity. Instead, we strive to align our work as closely as possible with our inner voice.

SETUP is undoubtedly a collective embodiment of the identities of all its members. We work best at improvisational events, where there is no strictly prepared script. While there is a structure to the event, the artist working on the content during the performance has the freedom to adapt and immerse themselves in the musical and human moment. It is difficult to emphasize innovative approaches solely in terms of technical tools because there are countless options available today. The medium and instruments themselves are secondary. What truly matters is the sensation of the creative process and the present moment. Therefore, it is essential to listen to our inner creative voice and follow its guidance.

SDM: Is a great idea or great teamwork more important?

DZ: Undoubtedly, both the idea and teamwork are important for us. The primary focus lies in an inspiring idea that resonates with the entire team, fostering smooth collaboration and ensuring everyone's satisfaction throughout the process. The idea behind the scene, installation, or performance must ignite a sense of inspiration in all involved. A great idea typically translates into an equally remarkable outcome. However, the execution of the idea varies based on different circumstances. 

One such significant factor is the space itself. We consistently work in close connection with the spatial elements and strive to utilize the entirety of its volume. Rather than relying on two-dimensional sketches or concepts, we directly create and evaluate our projects in 3D. Returning to Printworks, the most captivating aspect lies in the architecture of its main hall. The hall's narrow and elongated design influences our artistic thought process and guides the development of the idea. Within our team, there is a continuous flow of communication, as we exchange information, share examples, sketches, and materials. These ideas are always in motion, swirling around, until they find a moment to land upon the circumstances presented to us.

SDM: Which set makes you the proudest, and which event or venue do you aspire to work with?

DZ: Printworks was undeniably a project of great significance, and we take immense pride in it. The recognition we received extends beyond the local scene, reaching the global community. Another notable project we cherish is our collaboration with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Working alongside such a legendary band was truly exceptional. Additionally, the Extrema Festival stands out as one of our finest achievements in terms of organization and teamwork.

As for future aspirations, each member of our studio harbors different preferences. Personally, I find the current collaboration between Skrillex, Fred Again, and Four Tet intriguing. Their fusion of musical genres, combining punk fervor with world-class production, creates a powerful impact. The chemistry between them is palpable, and they continuously push boundaries, generating something truly innovative. It would be a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with them.

Furthermore, we have a desire to create our own grand-scale show, one that we can showcase repeatedly. This production would be meticulously developed, offering captivating visuals and compelling music that seamlessly complement each other. The aim is to create an immersive experience that captivates audiences on multiple levels.

SDM: Despite obstacles, "the show must go on". Looking into one possible future: 2026, the reopening of Printworks. What do you think will change in three years? What innovations would you like to see in the world of entertainment?

DZ: I would like the music and stage design industry to move towards a focus on live performing arts in a broader sense.  Currently, there are many shows where the spectacle itself takes precedence over the actual content and artistic expression. It seems that attending an event has become more about capturing the perfect Instagram photo rather than truly experiencing and engaging with the performance.

While we ourselves are somewhat bound by this situation, desiring our work to be visually appealing for social media, our primary goal is to ensure that it does not become mere cultural commodity. We understand the weariness that arises from repetitive requests for similar shows, as many attempt to replicate successful formulas rather than venture into new territories and embrace experimentation.

It is my hope that the industry progresses towards a space where the artistic language is constantly evolving. This evolution should be driven by a spirit of innovation and a commitment to experimentation.

We should always strive to break free from conformity and seek fresh and unconventional approaches to artistic expression. By promoting an environment that encourages experimentation, we can foster a culture of creativity and originality, allowing artists to push boundaries and create truly groundbreaking experiences for audiences.


S | D | M 

© 2020-2023 Set Design Magazine - All Rights Reserved