Melissa Gronlund is a London-based writer. She was previously the art correspondent for The National in Abu Dhabi, and her writings on contemporary art have appeared in The Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, Artforum, Art Agenda and Afterall journal, among other places. She wrote the script for “Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s,” the film by the Barjeel Art Foundation accompanying its exhibition of the same name (2020). She is also the author of “Contemporary Art and Digital Culture” (Routledge, 2016), which explores the relationship of contemporary art with the internet and digital technologies.
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One senior official at a cultural organization active in Afghanistan described the situation to New Lines as a tipping point. It should not be taken for granted, he said, that the current position of the Taliban on supporting heritage preservation will remain without tangible projects and commitment from the outside world. Without such an external effort, the fate of hundreds of archaeological and heritage sites hangs in the balance — open to further neglect, or worse.
For archaeological sites, climate change is a “force multiplier,” stressing endangered cultural heritage in unprecedented ways. Far more than war or terrorism, a shifting climate is itself beginning to be recognized as a threat.