The split-screen aesthetic : connecting meaning between fragmented frames
Ingrassia, Peter Matthew.
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The split-screen is a multi-frame technique used in film, television and video. Recent advances in digital technology make it easier to incorporate the fragmented frame into visual narrative strategies. I argue that properties inherent to the split-screen technique (including simultaneity, symmetry, visual irony, omniscient view and visual style) also emerge as attributes of a split-screen aesthetic. The split-screen aesthetic transforms a technical contrivance that has long provided an alternative to parallel editing, into a powerful narrative tool that facilitates the construction of visual stories in a spatial context. I trace the history of the use of split-screen by describing its function in selected visual works, including a medieval triptych painting, a 20th Century art installation, two films and a contemporary television program. A close analysis of a dual-screen video art installation helps characterize elements of the cinematic split-screen aesthetic. I also provide an account of the application of a split-screen design in my own experimental short video. As multi-screen formats continue to evolve, they invoke the split-screen aesthetic to shape the stories emerging from new spaces.